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WAO: Calls To Domestic Abuse Hotline Tripled During MCO Period

WAO: Calls To Domestic Abuse Hotline Tripled During MCO Period

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The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) revealed that calls to their domestic violence telephone and messaging services increased by 3.4 times in May compared to pre- Movement Control Order (MCO) levels.

The non-governmental organisation noted that they received 250 enquiries to their hotline and WhatsApp in February 2020 and the first MCO led to an initial 1.4x increase in enquiries.

This figure, however, spiked in the following months, tripling with 898 inquiries in April (3.6x) and 848 in May (3.4x).

In a statement, WAO Executive Director Sumitra Visvanathan said that this sharp increase since the beginning of the lockdown is extremely concerning.

The MCO was necessary to control Covid-19, but the government must also recognise that for many women and children home is not a safe haven – but actually quite the opposite.

Sumitra Visvanathan, WAO Executive Director.
Sumitra Visvanathan, WAO Executive Director.
(Credit: Miera Zulyana/Malay Mail)

Sumitra explains that when survivors are isolated together with their abusers, this creates a situation where it’s easier for the abuser to exert control physically, emotionally, and socially.

While lauding the government’s moves in ensuring services are available for domestic violence survivors, the NGO notes that there have been lapses in the national response to this dire issue, especially during the initial stages of the MCO.

She also highlights that the effects of the pandemic and MCO will linger and are a sign that the government must be better equipped to ensure the critical protection needs of survivors are met.

This pandemic has presented us significant learnings. We must use the knowledge gained during the first MCO period to ensure that we are better prepared for future emergencies, and that survivors of domestic violence are not falling through the cracks as we work to contain the health and economic fallouts from Covid-19.

Sumitra Visvanathan, WAO Executive Director.

Among the improvements suggested by WAO to aid domestic violence survivors include adequate staffing for the Talian Kasih hotline and a clear mandate for domestic violence protection orders to be applied for and issued online. 

The organization also points out the pressing need for clear standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the Social Welfare Department’s shelters and designated first responders.

During the earlier phases of the MCO, the topic of domestic abuse was a major issue with several reports by women’s rights groups noting significant increase in distress calls while the national Talian Kasih hotline reportedly logged a 57% increase in calls.

This reached a fever pitch when the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry released baffling social media posters advising women to talk in a “Doraemon-like tone of voice” and giggle to avoid arguments at home.

Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) has extended their hotline to 24 hours and provide advice and support virtually through the phone and WhatsApp.
Hotline: 03-7956 3488
WhatsApp TINA: 018-988 8058

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