The Society Against Family Violence was birth 30 years ago when it became an Affiliate of the National Council of Social Service and a Member Organisation of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations in 1991. Before this, it had a long gestation period beginning with SCWO setting up a Task Force for the Prevention of Violence Against Women in 1986.
The two years of its embryonic stage saw the Task Force holding travelling Exhibitions at various Community Centres and libraries its the message to “Stop Violence Against Women”. Then followed another two years of building networks amongst professionals and researchers from the social services and women’s groups. The year 1990 also saw two seminars, one done jointly with the Singapore Council of Social Services and the Social Work Department of the National University of Singapore and another, as a solo effort on the theme of “The Treatment of Men who Batter: A Workshop for Helping Professionals.”
Our mission is to provide services that prevent and/or reduce the frequency of violence in Singaporean families.
Goals of the Society
To develop and implement programmes that support frontline professionals working with families in crisis.
To develop and implement training/consultancy programmes for personnel to service victims and survivors of family violence.
To develop a clearing house facility which will facilitate the coordination of existing services for victims and survivors of family violence.
The Spirit of the Society
We want to work collaboratively with various social service organisations, women’s groups, government bodies and other professionals such as lawyers, doctors, educationists and people in the field of media. The enormity of the task, to eradicate family violence means that working together and enhancing the role of various professionals such as counsellors, social workers and police officers has to be its focus.
Message from SAFV
By Mr. Benny Bong, Founding Member of SAFV
Over the thirty years, SAFV has remained consistent to our goals. We have added, from time to time, various initiatives to address the perceived needs that had gone unaddressed. Let me highlight three innovations.
The first is in the area of public education. The first ten years saw SAFV mounting a number of seminars, conferences and road shows to take the message of non-violence to the community. We also published a series of magazines addressing the whole spectrum of family violence, from violence against children to abuse of the elderly. SAFV is also one of the organisations that media outlets go to for information and commentary.
The thrust of public education efforts has, over the past decade-and-a-half, been led by the Family Violence Dialogue Group, a group that combines various government bodies and social service organisations in focusing on the problem of family violence in Singapore. SAFV still has an eye on this area of work and will now be moving to the online media platform to get its messages through to the community.
RESEARCH ON FAMILY VIOLENCE
Another innovation is in the area of research. Data on the incidence of various forms of family violence has been difficult to obtain. We usually make inferences of its prevalence by tracking the number of applications for Personal Protection Orders or from admissions to the Accident and Emergency Departments of the public hospitals. There has also been a gap in our understanding of how victims of violence experience the various forms of assistance available in our community. In 1997 and 2010, SAFV undertook two major research in this area. The research in 1997 gathered on-the-ground perspectives from social workers and counsellors on the adequacy of protection and services for families experiencing family violence ten years after the last major amendments to the laws that seek to address family violence.
The second research is Singapore’s first most extensive look at violence against women. We collaborated with the Law Faculty of National University of Singapore and used the Violence Against Women Survey tool, becoming the 12th country in the world to use this same instrument. Findings of this research is available here and we hope that it will inform and spur further research in this area.
WORKING WITH PERPETRATORS TO END THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE
The last innovation I wish to highlight in this snapshot of SAFV’s story is our work not just with victims of violence but also with the perpetrators of family violence as well.
This inclusion is not without controversy. We began our work against family violence with our understanding of this scourge from a feminist lens. This helped us understand the dynamics of power and control—at an individual and community level. Also, present-day research on trauma and its effects on victims of violence helps us understand the difficulty victims have in breaking free from cycles of violent encounters.
However, SAFV has also taken on board a systemic lens. This perspective allows us to see the inter-connectedness of the actions of both the victim and perpetrator. With this latter lens, it becomes all the more important to work with both the victims, as well as the perpetrators of violence, if we want to end violence between people who are involved in intimate relationships. Working with perpetrators and with men—sometimes individually, or in couple counselling or in men’s groups—were new innovations that SAFV introduced.
It is foreseeable that these efforts of SAFV in the past thirty years will continue as the problem of violence in the family is still with us. Although we have witnessed the growth of new services and organisations over this period, the scope of this problem is so large that we shall continue to focus our attention on these pertinent issues.
Finally, the usefulness of having an organisations like SAFV, with our ability to innovate to address the needs of the community, is needed within a very changing and challenging environment.