Violence Against Vulnerable Adults

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A Vulnerable Adult (VA) is an individual aged 18 years or older who, by reason of his/her mental or physical infirmity, disability or incapacity, is unable to protect himself or herself from abuse, neglect or self-neglect.

Violence against vulnerable adults includes abuse and neglect.

The law defines abuse and neglect under The Vulnerable Adults Act as:

  • ‘Abuse’ includes physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse. It is also defined as controlling or dominating behaviour by the abuser which causes the VA to fear for her safety/well-being or to be deprived of freedom of movement.
  • ‘Neglect’ means the lack of provision of essential care (i.e. food, clothing, medical aid, lodging) to the VA. This could cause injury to physical/mental health.
Examples of Abuse

1. Physical abuse – Beating, hitting, slapping or pushing, resulting in injury
2. Neglect – Not providing essential care such as food, clothing, medical aid and other necessities, resulting in pain or injury
3. Emotional – Threatening, belittling or controlling, behaviour, such as verbal abuse or preventing them from socialising or leaving the house
4. Sexual abuse – Unwanted sexual acts committed against a person who is not able to provide consent
5. Self-neglect – Unable to perform essential tasks of daily living such as taking care of their own three meals or personal hygiene, leading to potentially dangerous or unhygienic living environment

The above list is non-exhaustive.

Elders are a group who may fall under this category. What is mentioned here is relevant. However, if you wish to know more specifically about elder abuse, click here.

What can I do if I am experiencing similar scenarios?

1. Speak to family members, neighbours or friends that you can trust
2. In life-threatening situations, call the police immediately or ask someone you trust to help you do so
3. Talk to doctors, social workers or other professionals about your experience and problems
4. Maintain an active social life, such as calling your friends to chat often and connecting with people in your community to increase your visibility
5. File a protection order under the Vulnerable Adults Act against the abuser. More information here.
6. Consider checking into hostels under SG enable in the case where you are unable to live with your family or cannot be cared for. Approach a social worker at any social service agency, hospital, family service centre) to help you apply.

If the abuser is a family member you can refer to family violence here.
If you are facing workplace discrimination you can refer here.
How can friends and family support the victim?

A vulnerable adult might not be aware that he/she is currently being abused or neglected.
Family and friends can help by:
●   Engaging the vulnerable adult often or encourage them to talk to you or a trusted person if they need help
●   Looking out for signs of abuse
●   Reporting suspected violence to:
○  Call ComCare Call Hotline (1800 222 0000)
○   The nearest Family Service Centre
○   Any of the three Family Violence Specialist Centres (PAVE Integrated Service for Individual and Family Protection Specialist Centre, TRANS SAFE Centre, Care Corner Project StART)
●   If you are the vulnerable adult’s family member, donee or deputy you may apply for a Protection Order on behalf of the vulnerable adult.

How can I seek legal help?

There are 4 types of protection order one can apply under the Vulnerable Adults Act.

Type of Legal Protection Details How to Apply
Restraining Order Restrains the respondent from abusing or further abusing the VA

1. Prepare your application online
2. Submit the application at any of these centres (Family Protection Centre, PAVE Integrated Service for Individual and Family Protection Specialist Centre, Trans Safe Centre, Care Corner
Project StART)

For more information on applying for a protection order, click here.

Exclusion Order Grants the VA the right of exclusive occupation of the VA’s place of residence or a specified part of the same, to the exclusion of the respondent
Non-Access Order Prohibits the respondent from entering and remaining in an area outside the VA’s place of residence or any other place frequented by the VA
Non-Visitation/ Communication Order Prohibits the respondent from visiting or communicating with the VA

If the abuser is a family member, you can check out family violence here.

Singapore Statistics

According to MSF (2020), the number of vulnerable adults investigation cases doubled from 107 cases in 2016 to 209 cases in 2019. Physical Abuse is the top cause of vulnerable adults investigation with 90 cases in 2019. This is followed by cases of Neglect and Emotional and Psychological Abuse with 39 and 37 cases respectively.

In 2016, 62% of people with disabilities (PWDs) surveyed report that they do not feel included, accepted, or given opportunities to contribute or reach potential by society (The Straits Times, 2016)