Across the globe, domestic violence has increased as a result of COVID-19. According to a recent report published by AWARE, the number of cases of violence at home in Singapore has increased since the pandemic struck and circuit breaker measures were introduced. From 7 April, 22 per cent more police reports are being filed over domestic violence each month.
Domestic violence includes physical, verbal or emotional abuse, not only between couples, but also of children, elderly parents, siblings, and others in the family.
Now that the circuit breaker has ended, have the numbers dropped? Sadly, the answer is no. More people are seeking help, going by the increased number of enquiries received by the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s Adult and Child Protective Services.
By nature, domestic violence happens in the privacy of the home. As a result, both abuser and victim tend to hide the truth, due to a combination of reasons. The violence may worsen as the people involved may be reluctant to seek help. This is where family members, friends and even neighbours can help.
Domestic violence is a concern to the Christian community; as believers, we have a strong impetus to take action. The Bible repeatedly portrays God as an Advocate who “upholds the cause of the oppressed” (Psalm 146:7). He calls on His people to go to the assistance of those who are weak and oppressed: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).
If you believe someone may possibly be suffering from domestic violence, here’s something to consider:
1. Be aware of possible violence
Domestic violence is the misuse of power and control. It’s an attempt to coerce and control a spouse, child, parent, or others through a combination of physical and non-physical means. You may want to find out more about spotting signs of abuse, so that you have a better understanding of what to look out for.
If your interactions with a family you know lead you to believe something is wrong, do take initiative to dig deeper. Pray for God’s wisdom to respond with grace, gentleness, and tact.
As a matter of prudence, men should generally talk to men, and women to women. For example, you could say: “I notice that things seem tense. Would you like to have coffee sometime?”
2. Offer help in practical ways
As followers of Christ, we are also called to meet physical needs. The Apostle James instructs us: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15–16).
Victims of domestic violence may need food and shelter, childcare, guidance through the legal and criminal justice systems, counsel, and emotional support. You can also encourage the person to talk to a pastor, an elder or church leader, or to consider seeking necessary help and protection. In these instances, accompanying the victim to talk to someone who can give the appropriate help will give them the extra courage to step forward to seek help.
And if the person is brave enough to share his or her story with you, listen with compassion and without judgment. Don’t go into “fix it” mode or offer unhelpful reassurances. Pray with them, share God’s Word of comfort with them where appropriate, and be there for them in practical ways.
3. Increase your understanding
Domestic violence is a complex issue; it is not something that can be resolved easily with a few actions and words of advice. Do find out more to gain insight into the causes and effects of family abuse, so that you can respond, in your own way, with godly discernment and sensitivity. When Violence Comes Home, a 32-page booklet by Tim Jackson and Jess Olson, is a good place to start.
As family members, friends, neighbours, and believers, we can play our part in helping those whom we know may be the victims. As Ms Cherylene Aw, the centre director of TRANS SAFE Centre, was quoted as saying: “By stepping in and lending a helping hand, the community can break the silence on violence. They may help someone in distress or even save a life.”