Fear Over Increase In Abuse: Here’s How To Look Out For Your Friends During MCO
Abuse and domestic violence is a power play with one side constantly wanting to maintain power and control and the other, just wanting to be in a healthy and loving relationship or environment. However, with the unprecedented changes in our lifestyle as a result of COVID-19, an increase in the desire to exert power and control may be born out of concerns with finances and health. And while Malaysia’s Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) has reported a decrease in calls to their helpline – this might not necessarily be a good thing. WAO’s Advocacy and Communications Officer Tan Heang-Lee told Malaysiakini that,
Domestic violence survivors are also at greater risk because they are trapped in the house all day with the abuser. But this increase may not be reflected immediately in the number of reported cases, as it can be difficult for survivors to report their case or to seek help during this time… We (WAO) may, however, see an increase in reporting once the MCO is lifted, as survivors will then be able to seek help more easily,”
As a result, it is our responsibility as friends and family to constantly be vigilant for signs of abuse. Here, we will break down what abuse is, what the signs are and how to approach a friend that might be facing abuse.
What is abuse
Abuse can come in various forms. From the more obvious physical abuse to the internal emotional abuse, there is also…
- sexual abuse (forcing you into sexual acts without your consent, refusing to use a condom; preventing you from taking contraceptives)
- financial abuse (making you economically dependent by maintaining complete control over financial resources)
- and digital abuse (using technology or sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Whatsapp to monitor, bully, harass, insult or stalk you; sending explicit videos or porn without your consent)
Abuse happens when there is an imbalance of power in the relationship, allowing for one to have more power over the other. With this, the abuser can them manipulate and control the abused by demonstrating this power. While most of the time, abuse is intentional; emotional abuse might not always be so as, in line with Asian culture, being harsh on someone and criticising them is not necessarily a conscious form of abuse (but one that can be helped by addressing the issue with the other party). Where the abuse is intentional, be it through random or calculated acts, they are intended simply to harm the other party. And as the abuse goes on, it can escalate, growing more intense as the days pass.
With physical abuse, it can be simpler to identify the existence of abuse. With emotional abuse (or verbal, psychological, mental) abuse, there are no physical marks, only outward expressions of inner turmoil. Here’s how to know if your partner is abusing you or if your friends are experiencing this. With how little personal interaction we are getting with our friends and loved ones, it might be difficult to spot the signs of abuse. However, by knowing what they are, you are more aware of what to look out for and what to be suspicious about.
1. They degrade:
The abuser makes you feel like you are worth less than you are by putting you down in front of others. They can also hurt you through sarcasm or by humiliating you when they make jokes at your expense. Negating how you feel is also a way to degrade you. For example, they write off or dismiss your feelings or reaction to a situation as you being “overly emotional or sensitive”; they tell you that you are wrong to be feeling the way that you are.
FRIENDS LOOK OUT FOR: Lowered confidence, lack of conviction when speaking, difficulty to make eye contact.
2. They manipulate:
They will twist and turn your words, making you think that your perception of reality is wrong. This is also known as “gaslighting”. It is extremely effective in causing the victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power and lowers the chance of the victim running away. They may even constantly monitor (bordering on stalking) and deliberately neglect the recipient of the abuse.
FRIENDS LOOK OUT FOR: Inability to focus, lack of concentration, fidgeting.
3. They threaten to harm themselves:
By playing the victim, they can threaten to harm themselves “as a result of your actions” or just so you comply with their wants. These threats sometimes extend to threatening anyone else in the home (i.e. children/elderly).
FRIENDS LOOK OUT FOR: Uncharacteristic signs of anxiety, fear, isolation, and/or depression.
4. They cause fear:
Either through their actions ( hitting, slapping, punching, biting and so on) or by looks, actions, or gestures. A person damaging property by throwing or kicking things around violently will also fall under emotional abuse, despite the use of physical force.
FRIENDS LOOK OUT FOR: Obvious injuries such as bruises, sudden hearing loss, cuts or broken bones; clothing inappropriate for the season (such as a turtleneck in warm weather), randomly wearing sunglasses indoors or make up that is heavier than usual
Of course, the signs are not specific to the type of abuse, someone who is manipulated could also show signs of anxiety and vice versa. But be cautious about how you approach your friend and bring up the topic. It is not an easy one to broach, and as revolutionary as the #MeToo movement has been, it hasn’t really made much of an impact out here in South East Asia where traditions of a “masculine, head-of-household husband” and “subservient wife” are still rampant. And, although statistically, women are more likely than men to experience multiple incidents of abuse, different types of domestic abuse (intimate partner violence, sexual assault and stalking) and in particular sexual violence – men can also fall victim. What’s worse is the fact that men are made to feel as if they cannot come forward as victims of abuse because “men don’t get abused” but the issue is one that does not discriminate by gender, race or age; it is an issue everyone might face.
Here are some do’s and dont’s to help you look out for your friends:
- Do take all possible measures to respect the confidentiality of the person experiencing domestic violence.
- Do be compassionate, patient and calm if someone discloses experiencing abuse to you. It may be the first time they’ve ever spoken about domestic violence and it may be hard for them to admit.
- Do suggest the victim keep a written record of the domestic violence incident
- Do ensure the person experiencing domestic violence feels they have control over what steps are taken.
- Do discuss a safety plan with the person experiencing domestic violence. Your workplace may already have a policy in place; however, ensure it is adapted to the specific needs of the worker you are speaking with.
- Don’t promise the person experiencing violence that you will keep the secret no matter what, as you may need to report the incident to someone else if there is an immediate threat of harm.
- Don’t take on the victim’s experiences as your own personal responsibility. Never try to “fix” a scenario of domestic abuse, but rather offer support.
- Don’t pass judgment on the scenario or try to force the person experiencing abuse into taking certain actions at home or in the workplace. First and foremost, your job is to listen.
- Don’t insist you know what’s best for the person experiencing violence or try to convince them to leave the relationship. Each situation of domestic violence is different and it’s impossible to know what’s best unless you’re involved. Again, always defer to the person experiencing violence as to how you can best support them and allow them to have a space to feel comfortable.
Let’s make society a safer, more supportive place to live in. Do your part by watching out for your friends and they will do their parts too. The police are still available to help during this time.
Last week, WAO worked closely together with PDRM to rescue a distressed survivor who had contacted our TINA hotline for help during the RMO. Thanks to PDRM, frontline police officers are still performing crucial tasks including rescues. pic.twitter.com/DUki7Oih5W
— Women's Aid Org (@womensaidorg) March 25, 2020
Abuse is not something to be taken lightly. Speak to someone you trust if you are going through emotional, psychological or even physical abuse. You can also call the following organisations (no matter if you are a man or woman) for help:
1. Women’s Aid Organization – +60 37957 5636 (Their website has an easy exit option & will not show up in browsing history should you need it)
2. Malaysian Police – 999
3. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) – +603 7877 0224
4. Sisters In Islam (Telenisa Helpline) – +603 7960 8802
5.Talian Kasih Hotline – 15999 (24h)
6.The Befrienders KL – +603 7956 8144 / +603 7956 8145