AWAM sees a concerning pattern attributed to the distress calls as the survivors are often afraid to make a report to authorities
by HARIZAH KAMEL / Pic by TMR GRAPHIC
THE number of distress calls, especially on domestic abuse is expected to increase during the Movement Control Order (MCO) 2.0, according to civil society groups.
All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) services programme officer Mayna Patel recently told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that in the first month of MCO 2.0, AWAM has received 110 calls to date.
This is an increase from last year’s calls during the first month of MCO 1.0, where AWAM received 60 cases.
“The calls that come during the first month of MCO 2.0 are a mixed of domestic violence, sexual harassment (online and physical) including of children, and mental health including anxiety and depression.
“This is much different from the first month of MCO 1.0, where the first concern of many were related to finances. Thanks to the many advocacy efforts during the last lockdown till now, more and more reports of abuse are coming in,” she said.
She said AWAM sees a concerning pattern attributed to the calls as the survivors are often afraid to make a report to authorities such as human resources, government agencies and the police, or have made a report and were faced with further disappointment.
This would lead them to feeling they will not get justice and the abuse by the perpetrator will continue.
During the first MCO, it was reported that there were fourfold increases in domestic violence reporting, through the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development’s Talian Kasih, as well as the various hotlines of women’s NGOs like Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO), AWAM, Women’s Centre for Change Penang, Sabah Women’s Action-Resource Group and Sarawak Women.
Meanwhile, WAO head of campaigns Natasha Dandavati told TMR that it is still fairly early into MCO 2.0, but they are expecting an increase in the number of calls and inquiries related to domestic violence, similar to the previous MCO last year.
“The majority of calls to our hotline are related to domestic violence. Because with the MCO, survivors are increasingly isolated at home with their abusers, and with more cut off from family or social support networks, we generally expect there to be a rise in domestic violence,” she said.
She explained that due to social isolation and uncertainty around how to get help during the MCO, more survivors are unclear as to whether and how they can still get help.
Natasha added that for people who know someone who is being abused or hears a neighbour being abused, they should find a way to safely intervene.
“For example, if someone hears or sees someone being abused, discreetly offering assistance such as slipping them a piece of paper with WAO’s hotline number on it might be the best approach to ensure that they are not put in further danger,” she said.
At a minimum, one should make sure the person knows who they can call for help, and has an emergency plan in place in case the violence escalates.
“If a family member or friend confides that they are being abused, referring them to the police, WAO’s hotline or the Talian Kasih hotline can help ensure that they get the help they need,” she added.
Mayna also shared the same view where if one is unsure of what to do, they can always contact the relevant NGOs like AWAM for support and find out what they can do.
She suggested the best way a bystander to an abused friend or a family member can help is by being supportive, including listening to the survivor of what happened to them and help them record the incidents.
“Do not immediately give suggestions on what to do or what you would have done if you were in their shoe, just listen. Give the survivors the support of knowing that you are there for them,” she added.