On Assignment

Breaking the Cycle of Family Violence

Reducing crime and curbing family violence by offering early interventions and social support to offenders – and soon, to their next-of-kin as well.
GRAPHIC: Home Team News

A young student named Bob witnesses his mother being scolded by his father.

Plates are thrown on the floor; a table is broken.

Bob hears his father threatening to beat his mother.

Bob feels scared and lost, not knowing what to do.

“I want to help my mother, but what should I do?” he asks himself.

At the launch of ’A Day with Bob’ with (from left): Mr Michael Gray, President of PAVE; Ms Sun Xueling; Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social and Family Development; and Zhang Weihan, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Commander Ang Mo Kio Police Division. PHOTOS: Darren Ng

These painful scenes are from the educational picture book ‘A Day with Bob,’ a collaboration between the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and PAVE, a family violence specialist centre that provides counselling services to victims of family violence.

The book offers simple steps that children can follow to break the silence on family violence, such as telling a school counsellor or adult they trust about their problems at home (or, just as importantly, helping someone else who’s a victim of family violence).

Breaking the Cycle
SPF receives about 2,000 reports annually for offences such as hurt, criminal force and assault involving family members. At the launch of ‘A Day with Bob’ on 17 February 2020, Ms Sun Xueling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Social and Family Development, noted the urgency of addressing violence within families.

“Family violence destroys lives,” she said. “Research shows there is a vicious inter-generational cycle of family violence; children who witness their fathers beating up their mothers are ten times more likely to abuse their future spouses. It is therefore crucial that we take steps to break this cycle. Each case is one too many. No one should fear going home.” 

A collaboration between SPF and PAVE, ‘A Day with Bob’ will be distributed to primary schools in the North Zone. PHOTO: Darren Ng

In January 2019, SPF launched the pilot phase of Home Team CARES (Community Assistance and Referral Scheme) at Bedok Police Division. The Scheme aims to address the root causes of offending behaviour such as family violence, causing hurt and theft.

Under Home Team CARES, social workers from Fei Yue Community Services – known as CARES officers – provide first-response assessment and referrals for offenders. “We find out what kind of support and counselling the offenders need,” explained CARES officer Julia Quek. “Then we refer them to the appropriate social support agency.”

On the Frontlines with Home Team CARES
Since Home Team CARES was launched, over 110 offenders have been assessed by CARES officers at Bedok Police Division and received the necessary interventions. This has made a difference to families in need.

In one case, a man got into a dispute with his family members at home and used a hammer to repeatedly hit a door to get their attention.

Police officers arrested the offender for committing a rash act. At the station, he was seen by CARES officers who referred him for counselling at a social support agency. This helped the offender address his issues, and his relationship with his family has since improved.

“Home Team CARES has had a successful run,” explained Inspector (INSP) Chia Ka Ying, an Investigation Officer at Bedok Police Division. “It allows support to be rendered more quickly to offenders as the CARES officers are well-trained in identifying the issues that offenders face.”

Partners in reducing crime (from left): Julia Quek, INSP Chia Ka Ying and Tian Ching Ching. Home Team CARES seeks to address the root causes of crime by offering timely social support to offenders. PHOTO: Ashley Tuen

Extending the Circle of Home Team CARES
As Ms Sun noted during the launch of ‘A Day with Bob,’ plans are now underway to roll out Home Team CARES to more Police Divisions, as well as to extend the Scheme to the next-of-kin of offenders, some of whom may be victims of family violence.

This means that in the future, when Police investigate cases of family violence, CARES officers can also support the victims in such cases, refer them to appropriate agencies for help.

“If an offender commits a crime because of family difficulties, there’s a need to address it holistically,” explained Tian Ching Ching, Manager of the CARES officers at Bedok Police Division. “For example, the offender may share his or her home with an elderly person with mental health issues. So when help is extended to these family members, there’ll be better support for both offenders and their next-of-kin.”

For CARES officer Julia Quek, the value of such interventions goes beyond the initial assessment and referral. “Even after we’ve referred offenders and victims for support, we’ll continue following up with the offender for three months, to check on their progress.”

Speaking Up, Seeking Help
Read the speech by Senior Parliamentary Secretary Sun Xueling at the launch of ‘A Day with Bob’ on 17 February 2020.

Tell-tale signs of family violence, and ways to break the silence, as told in ‘A Day with Bob.’ GRAPHIC: SPF/PAVE

‘A Day with Bob’ is a joint initiative of SPF and PAVE. To speak to someone about family violence, check out:
- PAVE: 6555-0390
- TRANS SAFE Centre: 6449-9088
- Care Corner Project StART: 6476-1482
- Ministry of Social and Family Development Break the Silence website

Written by

Ashley Tuen


11 March 2020

Related Articles