November 29th, 2013

Break the silence of violence

By Carol Candler, Member, AWARE, and Moana Jagasia, Research and Advocacy Coordinator, AWARE

Does one know violence when one sees it? Does one recognise that checking a partner’s email or text messages without permission is abuse? What about casual put-downs of one’s partner as stupid, fat or ugly?

no_violence_logoNov 25 was International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. According to the United Nations, one-third of women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence. This is the result of unequal relations between men and women.

Its roots lie in everyday images, attitudes and stereotypes that reinforce the view that women are inferior to men. These norms affect boys and men, who are socialised into the exercise of gender-based violence as a means of proving their masculinity.

Violence is not always black and blue; social and financial control as well as threats and psychological abuse constitute and contribute to violence.

Lewd comments towards women on the street, impossibly perfect images of beauty in the media and the hypercritical policing of women’s clothes and mannerisms reinforce the widespread social norms that make it acceptable to use violence.

Physical abuse is the tip of the iceberg; the deeper context is this overarching system of hierarchy and control.

In 2012-13, the Association of Women for Action and Research and Ngee Ann Polytechnic carried out research that shows some public understanding of the issues surrounding violence against women.

However, 16 per cent of the 1,322 respondents disagreed that slapping, threats of violence and threats to kill are physical violence.

The figures are more discouraging for subtler forms of violence: 24 per cent did not recognise harassment of one’s partner through social media as a form of violence; 27 per cent did not consider restriction of a partner’s access to friends and family as abusive.

A larger percentage, 36 per cent, did not acknowledge that controlling the finances of their wives or girlfriends is abusive. At a recent forum theatre production, our student audience, far from recoiling from a rape scene, cheered on the fictitious rapist.

How do we break this silence of violence? The campaign, We can! End All Violence Against Women, was launched in April, and it involves individuals, communities and organisations working towards changing the attitudes that excuse violence.

Taking an innovative approach to public education, the campaign is organising an arts festival on Dec 8. By bringing together artists, activists and survivors, it seeks to create an alternative space to enable the public to think differently about violence against women.

Ending gender violence is an important endeavour for women and men. It is possible to develop a more equal society, where no one has to live in the shadow of restrictive and dehumanising attitudes based on gender.

By challenging the harmful and debasing behaviours we witness every day — be it in our social circles, in the street or in the media — everybody can play a part in breaking the silence of violence.

Click here to get your ticket for the We Can! Arts Fest on 8 December.

This letter was published in TODAY on 29 November 2013. 


  1. ZeeGeez

    When the victim finally decided to take some action and get help, their FIRST move will be contacting the police (filing a police report, paying for a detailed medical report, submitting your application and face your abuser in the courtroom, etc.). However, only half the battle is won when you’re granted a PPO. Why do i say this?

    When you’re faced with a violent situation, during your chaotic state of mind, you still have to file a police report and get a medical report (yes its better to get one) and then (wait for it, wait for it….) Bang! You’ll still have to wait for a long time for the assigned Investigating Officer (IO) to reach out to you – meet them and then wait for them to feedback to you on the status and progress. In my opinion, it is not what’s in the court order that would determine if its a breach of PPO, it is the IO. The IO somehow (i think) could “feel” from the statement provided, if your case is in need of urgent attention, or can be swept under the carpet for now (I said “for now”)…

    The victim had made the first move to SEEK HELP, and trust that the system will take care of them, right? Nope! If you want the violence to stop (you sadly have to work for it), so please start shamefully chasing everybody to do something, just something!

    Bombard me if you want, but i am speaking from experience! I’m just a voice who has given up hope in the system. In the meantime, I’m keeping my head up. I still have to face the bullying and threats every now and then… Did I just hear you said justice is on the horizon? Well, my dear, we’ll see… For now, hang tight and keep yourself safe.

    Okay, so we broke the silence of violence, and we are now trying to heal, but can we please now ensure that the system is on our side?

  2. Esther

    I called in couple of times during my maternity (March this year) to seek for assistance regarding this matter. I was mentally and verbally abused by my mother in law when I am at having my maternity at her place. It was tragic plus the fact that I had an emergency c-section. Movements are very minimal and I am lying in bed almost 18 hours per day. Shouting by her was given to me everyday. I called in to Aware a couple of times and also called in the Police to stop the whole matter but I was not taken care of at that time. I was left alone and kept in the house. She came up with a lot of cultures saying I could not go out or go back my mum’s place because I and baby were termed “dirty”. I need to wait till a month later.
    I was not given food whenever she is unhappy with me. I am totally so stressed up in the environment and my baby is also being shouted at. I could only cry in silence. Help and attention were not given to me when I needed the support and assistance the most. I was told to go down to counseling with my MIL if she wants to. That’s already first thing that could not be done.
    I were given pressured by my husband, he will also verbally abused me telling me that I am weak, useless and helpless. Ugly and fat that he could happily provided for PRC woman and why he will provide for me and baby. It happened currently.
    Yes, I broke the silence of asking for help and assistance, but who do I approach and how is the system going to help me and my baby whom need me the most currently?