Centre to help abused girls find their footing again

Having gone through the severe trauma of being repeatedly beaten and forced to take two-hour cold showers at home by her parent and maid, abuse victim "Nina" thought the worst was behind her. But the 15-year-old still struggles to fit into society.

Earlier this year, for example, she did not dare to use an ATM to deposit the money she had saved up since she was 10.

"I was afraid of looking like an idiot and didn't want to take the risk of having the money go to someone's else account," she said.

Yesterday, President Tony Tan Keng Yam launched Singapore's first transition group home that helps girls like Nina reintegrate into society. There were 155 child abuse cases last year.

The home is part of Dayspring's Residential Treatment Centre, which provides therapy for girls aged between 13 and 17 who have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused repeatedly.

After the girls go through the one-year care and counselling programme at the treatment centre, the plan is for them join the transition home to acquire the skills needed when they rejoin society.

The treatment centre and transition home are examples of the "small-group therapeutic homes" concept first mentioned by then Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan in 2011.

The idea behind such small group homes, which have been successful in countries such as Britain and the United States, is that children with a history of repeated abuse need closer attention and care.

Dayspring's treatment centre opened in 2011 and is the first such home here. There is a group home for boys called HomeSweetHome@Admiralty.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development told The Straits Times that it is planning to set up two more group homes by 2016. The Government said in 2012 that it would pump $13 million into setting up six small group homes.

Nina is one of two girls to have gone through the treatment programme; they moved into the transition home, converted from a black-and-white bungalow off Dunearn Road, two weeks ago. For the next six months, Nina will learn skills such as how to manage her money, how to communicate better with her loved ones and even how to cook.

One goal that Nina said her counsellors wanted her to work on was making more friends at school.

She said: "I just wasn't interested in making friends in the past but I know I need to build up my social networks for the future."


This article was first published on July 05, 2014.
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