Spousal abuse is the most common form of family violence in Singapore, according to a new study by Pave, the leading agency that deals with such cases.
Based on 3,600 cases it has handled over the last 10 years, Pave said the study found that victims who are physically or psychologically abused by their spouses made up 72 per cent of new cases.
Pave executive director Sudha Nair said the high rate may not mean that other forms of violence are not prevalent.
"It is just that other forms of abuse, such as elder or child abuse, often go unreported; these are the victims who can't fend for themselves and do not come forward to seek help," said Dr Nair.
That is why the agency hopes more members of the public can come forward to help identify victims of family violence - whether they are married, children, or elderly.
The worsening problem of family violence can be seen by the rise in the number of such cases that went to court. In 1995, the Family Court heard 978 such cases. By last year, the figure had more than tripled to 3,200.
"I think it is a concern because families have come under increasing pressure and strain," said Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah who spoke on Friday at a family violence forum organised by Pave.
To tackle this problem, the newly-established Family Justice Committee has issued several recommendations that will be put up for public consultation early next year. Among them, the committee hopes to strengthen community touch-points, such as schools, hospitals and family service centres, so that family violence victims can get help earlier, before cases escalate to the courts.
"If you want to save the family and try to make sure the family remains intact, you have to go further upstream," said Ms Indranee, who co-chairs the committee.
This means teachers, doctors and lawyers may need to undergo relevant training so they have the skills and knowledge to refer victims for help. Victims could get help at specialist agencies that handle divorce cases or provide mediation services which the committee has suggested setting up.