New campaign to raise awareness of violence against women

The We Can! campaign aims to raise awareness on domestic violence through volunteers who spread the message, and through workshops or activities. The campaign is part of a global one that gets individuals to pledge that they will not tolerate violence against women. Singapore is the 16th country to launch it.

Get the full story from The Straits Times.

Here is the press release from AWARE:

Most Singaporeans will not try to stop domestic violence, survey shows

AWARE launches We Can! Campaign to help individuals take steps to prevent violence against women

Eight of 10 persons will not intervene if they know that a friend, relative or neighbour is being abused by a partner, according to an AWARE survey conducted in late 2012.

The main reason for their inaction is they have no idea how to help. Other reasons are fear of the abuser's reaction, and the feeling that it is none of their business.

To address this, AWARE has launched the 'We Can!' campaign (or We Can End! All Violence Against Women), a ground-up initiative to trigger change in social attitudes towards violence.

The target is to mobilise, over the next three years, more than 1,000 individuals and community groups who will make a commitment to work towards a violence-free society. Each of them will aim to get the We Can! message to another 10 people, with the campaign eventually touching 10,000 people or more.

"Domestic violence is not a private matter. The We Can! campaign encourages bystanders to see violence as their concern and emboldens them to take action," said AWARE's Executive Director Corinna Lim.

The survey of 1,322 respondents (667 women and 655 men) from a wide cross-section of Singapore society was carried out by students of Ngee Ann Polytechnic School of Business and Accountancy.

The survey also found that:

- While nine in ten people recognise physical violence, only seven in ten recognise non-physical violence
- Negative stereotypes of women and conservative views on gender roles remain strong, especially among men aged 18-29.

Commenting on the survey findings, Ms Lim said these gender stereotypes and patriarchal attitudes contribute to the tolerance and perpetuation of violence against women.

"These gender stereotypes may not have been an issue 40 years ago. However, with more women entering the workforce, we are seeing more differences in expectations of gender roles between men and women. This could lead to an increase in conflict within marriage. This incompatibility could also be a contributing factor to fewer marriages and children," said Ms Lim.

Violence Isn't Always Black and Blue

AWARE is also concerned that fewer Singaporeans recognise psychological violence compared to physical violence. Regular verbal abuse, harassment, and controlling of a partner's finances and social life, are amongst the forms of violence that are less recognised.

Domestic violence survivor Rachel Chung says that it is crucial to pay attention to subtler forms of violence. Recounting her own experience, she says, "People think psychological violence is not really violence, that we're making mountains out of molehills.

"Violence in my life started with verbal tirades, insults and put-downs from my partner. He then assaulted me with profanities. Soon, he started shoving me when I 'stepped out of line' and this escalated to more physical abuse like slapping and punching."

She added: "The damage to my morale and self worth caused by the emotional abuse was no less than the physical injuries. I hope more people will come to realise that violence isn't always black and blue. We need to recognise and reject all forms of violence in our own lives, and also around us."

Rape Myths Especially Prevalent Among Younger Men

Another worrying finding is that rape myths persist across all age groups, but are particularly strong amongst 18-29 year old men.

Within this age group:

- 13 per cent of men think women who are raped often 'ask for it'
- 29 per cent of men think women often make false claims of being raped
- 21 per cent of men think women often say 'no' to sex when they mean 'yes'.

"These numbers are alarming," said Ms Lim. "Our experience working with victims of rape and sexual assault indicate that the culture of victim blaming is still prevalent in Singapore, causing rape to be under-reported. The importance of consent in sex is also not well understood by this generation. It is particularly worrying that young men have these sexist views."

AWARE's 'We Can!' campaign

We Can! is a global campaign that has touched over 3.9 million individuals worldwide who have pledged not to commit or tolerate violence against women. Singapore is the 16th country to join the movement.

We Can! Singapore took off at the beginning of 2013. With the tagline 'Change starts with me', the campaign will mobilize over 1,000 individual 'Change Makers' - ambassadors of gender equality and non-violence - through art, performance, sports, community networks and new media.

These Change Makers will be active volunteers who take the campaign message forward and inspire change in their communities, and over the next three years reach more than 10,000 people in Singapore, inspiring them to speak out against violence in their own lives and around them.

"It's a people's movement for a violence-free society," explains Campaign Coordinator Kokila Annamalai.

By building an alliance of schools, colleges, community groups, and other organisations in Singapore that are willing to work towards a violence-free society, the We Can! campaign will reach diverse segments of Singapore society. UN Women (Singapore) is the first alliance member of the campaign.

So far, through interactive workshops on violence against women, the campaign has recruited more than 80 Change Makers who have pledged to end violence against women.

A team of 20 Change Makers have devised a forum theatre on violence against women, which premieres on 22nd June 2013. This play will be taken to communities around Singapore to provoke widespread thought, discussion and action to end violence against women.

"We hope that as it grows, the We Can! campaign will go from being an AWARE-led initiative to an alliance-led and community-owned initiative," said Kokila.

Become a fan on Facebook