Speech at Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS) "Times Of Restoration" Charity Dinner by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Senior Minister of State For Finance and Transport, on Friday, 4 July 2008, 8.05pm, Meritus Mandarin Hotel04 Jul 2008
The Most Reverend Dr John Chew
President, Singapore Anglican Community Services
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my joy to be here with you tonight in support of this very commendable fund-raising effort by the Singapore Anglican Community Services (SACS). We have all come together tonight, with one common purpose - to lend a helping hand to the building of a new crisis shelter for those in need.
Testimony from a Beneficiary of St. George's Place
2. Let me begin by sharing with you a testimony of a woman, who found the courage to pick up the pieces of her life after years of abuse.
3. She was a victim of family violence, tolerating her husband's emotional, mental and physical abuse throughout their ten years of marriage. Thereafter, her husband deserted her and her three young daughters, leaving her to fend for herself and her children. At times, she even had to rummage through rubbish dumps for food for her children. She was in constant fear of not having a roof over their heads. Just when she was losing her will to survive, she stumbled upon the SACS crisis shelter, which provided the family not only with food and shelter, but also counselling services to help her regain her confidence. She is now a working mother and no longer needs to worry about her children who are well looked after by the SACS latchkey services. She no longer has to be afraid of being abused by her husband as SACS has engaged a volunteer lawyer to help protect her legal rights.
4. SACS has successfully helped this woman in her darkest hours and to reintegrate into society. This family is just one of many that the SACS crisis shelter had helped in their past 22 years of service to the community.
5. These crisis shelters offer protection, temporary accommodation, practical assistance, training programmes and emotional support to victims and family members to help them recover from the trauma of abuse. Besides victims of family violence, other beneficiaries from the crisis shelters include single parents and families who are in financial hardship and/or with relationship problems and who have no alternative accommodation.
6. Tonight, I shall focus on victims of family violence who are usually women and their children, and where helping them remains the core service provided by these crisis shelters.
Recent Trends in Family Violence
7. Let me share a little on the recent trends in family violence. A Subordinate Courts' study on the profile of family violence cases showed that 82% of all Complainants, referring to those who have filed for personal protection orders, were female. Spousal violence is the most widespread form of family violence in Singapore. In 2007, 60% of the applicants were wives of perpetrators while 10% were husbands. Ex-spouses accounted for 10% of the applications. The final 20% were made up of other family members such as siblings or parents of perpetrators.
8. In 2007 alone, some 2,500 Personal Protection Orders (PPO) and Domestic Exclusion Orders (DEO) were filed. The number of Personal Protection Orders (PPO) and Domestic Exclusion Orders (DEO) applications serves as a proxy indicator of public awareness of sources of help and also reflects the increasing willingness among victims to seek help for their own safety and that of their children.
Promote Public Awareness of Family Violence
9. A key pillar of the Government's family violence management framework is the prevention of family violence. The desired outcomes include the reduction in the incidence of family violence cases in Singapore as well as greater awareness among the public on how to seek help and to do so early.
10. In the past, many viewed family violence as a private family affair and accepted it as part and parcel of family life. Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) has been trying to debunk such myths and educate the public on where and how they can seek assistance.
11. The focus of public education initiatives has largely been preventive in nature, emphasizing the promotion of healthy family relationships, identifying signs of family violence and getting victims to recognize the need to seek help early. Public education materials such as pamphlets, posters and collaterals have also been distributed to inform the public of the availability of community resources.
Avenues of Help
12. To better tackle the problem of family violence, the Government has put in place since 1996 the National Family Violence Networking System to complement the legal provisions and to integrate the management of family violence. Known as the "Many Helping Hands" approach, the Government, community and families work in concert to tackle social issues in Singapore. SACS is one such social service agency helping victims through the provision of crisis shelters.
13. With growing awareness of family violence and the availability of different avenues of help, we are seeing more people coming for help. Therefore, there is a need to create additional space to ensure that victims are not turned away when they require assistance and shelter.
New Crisis Shelter
14. I am very glad to know that SACS has anticipated this increase in demand for crisis accommodation and with the help of MCYS, decided to relocate to a new and bigger location at Serangoon to cater to more victims. This shelter will continue to provide residential care, counselling and family therapy, latchkey services, training and job matching, social enterprise and student care services to their residents.
15. The new crisis shelter is targeted for completion in 2009 and is timely in meeting the rising demand. The upgrading cost is estimated at $3 million, and with the Government's subsidy, SACS has to raise about $500,000 for capital and recurrent costs.
16. It takes great strength and courage to walk away from a home of violence. Many victims delay seeking help and live in the hope that the violence will eventually stop. Unfortunately, very often it doesn't, and when victims find the strength to speak up and seek to break free from the cycle of violence, we must not turn them away. Your strong support tonight will go a long way towards helping the SACS crisis shelter assist victims in overcoming feelings of isolation, developing self-confidence and essentially taking control of their lives. I hope each and every one of you can donate generously to this worthy cause and aid SACS in achieving their target of $500,000!
17. On that note, thank you and I wish you a pleasant and blessed evening ahead.