Family Violence

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Family violence is violent, threatening or controlling behaviour within the family. More than just physical injury, family violence encompasses any behaviour that can cause a person to live in fear, ​hurt or anguish (based on the definition of family violence under section 64 of the Women’s Charter).​ It can happen at any level of relationship, and and in many different ways, ranging from physical and verbal abuse, to emotional and psychological torment. A common misconception about family violence is that it affects the less educated, but the truth is that it can occur across all social and educational backgrounds.

  • Physical abuse – Beating, hitting, slapping or pushing, resulting in injury
  • Neglect – Not providing essential care such as food, clothing, medical aid and other necessities, resulting in pain or injury
  • Emotional abuse – Threatening, belittling or controlling behaviour, such as verbal abuse or, preventing them from socialising or leaving the house
  • Sexual abuse – Unwanted sexual acts committed against a person who is not able to provide consent
  • Financial abuse – Exploitation and/or misuse of funds or resources. It includes misappropriation of money, valuables or property
  • Social isolation – not allowing the victim to be in touch with loved ones and friends
Examples and Possible Signs

As the perpetrator may be someone close to victims, victims often may not realise that they are being abused, and be trapped in the vicious cycle of violence.

Victims of family violence may exhibit/experience:

  • Physical injuries (unexplained injuries, bruises, black eyes, sprains, broken bones/teeth)
  • Psychological trauma (victim may exhibit these signs suddenly/over a sustained period of time: being anxious, upset, depressed, tearful, angry, worried, restless, unusually quiet or confused, from verbal threats or physical abuse)
  • Anti-social behaviours (victim may become withdrawn, avoiding people, not answering the door or phone, canceling events)
  • Unusual financial activities (victim may have an overdrawn account, foreclosure, and eviction)
  • Unusual work behaviour (victim may have many absences, tardiness, sick days, decrease in work quality, inability to complete tasks, becoming isolated from co workers)

Sometimes, perpetrators may apologise for their actions, and victims may forgive them easily due to the nature of the relationship. However, family violence should not be tolerated as your personal (and children’s) safety is important. You can seek help before the abuse becomes more serious.

What can I do if I’m experiencing similar scenarios?

If you or your children are experiencing similar scenarios, there is help available! Here is what you can do before the abuse get worse:

1. Seek help.
Contact the police (especially in emergencies) or your nearest Family Service Centre (FSC) (alternatively, call ComCare Call Hotline (1800 222 0000) to be redirected to the nearest FSC). A comprehensive list of contacts that include other organisations can be found here.

2. Seek medical attention if you have injuries.
Medical reports are confidential so you can tell the doctor the true cause of your injuries. Keep your medical receipt as evidence.
If you intend to apply for a Protection Order under the Woman’s Charter, you will have to ask the doctor to write a medical report for the court.

3. Preserve Evidence
Report the incident to the Police as soon as possible, so that any evidence of the assault
can be preserved.

4. Seek shelter in a crisis shelter.
Admission is via police/hospital/social worker/FSC & FSVC referral. Should you require shelter, please go to your nearest family service centre or make a police report

5. Seek legal protection and/or advice.
More information is mentioned below.

6. Make a safety plan for the next time violence or abuse occurs.
This includes:
●  Finding pockets of ‘safe times’ (where the abuser is away, distracted or asleep) to contact friends, family or other supporters;
●  Establishing secret codes to alert supporters;
●  Packing and hiding an ‘emergency bag’;
●  Teaching children how to contact the police.

FSC social workers are equipped to help you draft a safety plan.
More details on safety plans can be found here.

How can friends and family support the victim?

If you suspect domestic violence in the homes of your neighbours, relatives or friends, call the police or ComCare Call Hotline (1800-2220000). Do not hesitate because you think you might be interfering in someone’s personal matter. You are doing the right thing by speaking out and saving someone
from violence.

If you know someone experiencing similar scenarios, you SHOULD:

  • Approach them privately, expressing concern.
  • Show empathy. Be patient when listening and not judgemental. Let them feel understood.
  • Offer to accompany them to see a doctor if they sustain physical injuries, to the relevant agencies or even in calling a helpline.
  • Suggest available resources and services which provide them with emotional and practical help. One such resource is making a safety plan.
  • Let them decide what they want to do next, respecting their decision and assuring them of your support. The victim may be dependent on the perpetrator, and thus unwilling to seek help as easily.
  • Continue to check in with them.

If you know someone experiencing similar scenarios, you SHOULD NOT

  • Be judgemental and blame the victim.
  • Downplay the violence and tell them that everything will be fine.
  • Judge or criticise their decisions even if they show that they are not ready to do something positive about the situation.
  • Lose your patience. Continue to support them and keep in touch with them.
How can I seek legal help?

Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and non-citizens can apply for legal protection under the

Women’s Charter

Type of Legal Protection Details What can victims do

Penal Code

For select hurt and sexual offences, there are enhanced penalties for acts committed against those in an “intimate relationship” or “close relationship” with the offender at the time of the commission of the offence.



Order (PPO)

under the



Under the PPO, the court may make one or both of the following orders:

1. The offender cannot use family violence against the family member;

2. The offender cannot incite or assist anyone to commit family violence against the family member

3. Should the offender breach a PPO, it could result in a fine or imprisonment

The PPO is granted only after a trial unless the offender consents to being granted the PPO. Medical reports and police reports can be helpful to obtain a PPO.

Family Protection Centre (FPC) of the FJC (at Havelock Square), or at any Family Violence Specialist Centre (FVSC).

You can prepare your application online before going to these centres.

If you are below 21 years old, your relative, guardian or any person responsible for your care or a social worker can apply for a Protection Order on your behalf.

Expedited Order (EO)

Urgent PPO made before the trial.

Granted if there is imminent danger of physical injury to any family member.

EO is valid only for 28 days or when the trial begins whichever occurs earlier.

Victims can apply for an EO while waiting for PPO, if there is imminent danger of family violence being committed against you or your family member.
Domestic Exclusion Order (DEO)

The DEO only restricts the offender from entering the home (or parts of it). It does not affect his/her ownership of the house.

The Court can order:

1. That the offender leaves the home

2. That the offender be prohibited from entering the home or some portion of the home

3. That the applicant be permitted to enter and remain in the home.

The application of a DEO is similar to that of a PO

A person can also apply for a PPO under the Women’s Charter, even in the case of non-physical violence (e.g. causing continual harassment). You can also apply for a PO under the POHA​.

You do not need a lawyer to obtain a PO but it may be helpful to also seek legal advice at the following:

Singapore Statistics

In a 2019 survey conducted by IPSOS and United Women Singapore, it found that 30% of Singaporeans claimed they or someone close to them have experienced domestic abuse before. Family violence is a pertinent issue in Singapore, as seen from statistics from the Family Justice Courts – the average number of PPOs filed over the last five years have hovered around 2,768 cases each year over the last five years. The percentage of applicants that are women has consistently been at around 70% as well, making women a vulnerable group (Family Justice Courts, 2019).

The International Violence Against Women Survey in 2010 found that about 1 in 10 women locally experienced lifetime physical violence by a male and 6 in 10 victims of physical violence suffer repeated victimisation. It is also worth noting that while these are official statistics, reporting may not always be accurate – many cases may still remain unreported. Furthermore, any increases in reporting may not necessarily mean that there is an increase in the incidence of violence but could be a reflection of better access to social and legal support.

There was an increase in family violence when the circuit breaker measures were introduced on April 7 2020 (The Straits Times, 2020). From April 7 to May 6, there were 476 police reports filed for cases associated with family violence. This is a 22% increase compared with the monthly average of 389 for such cases before the circuit breaker period. The offences include causing hurt, using criminal force, assault, criminal intimidation, and wrongful confinement.