More help for children who need protection

More help for children who need protection

A charity that deals with family violence wants to help more children who have witnessed or experienced abuse.

Pave will run a new child protection service centre for the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and, although a suitable site is still being located, it is expected to be ready next year.

The organisation currently helps around 40 children a year, most of whom have been referred via the courts through personal protection orders or because of mandatory counselling for parents.

Its executive director, Dr Sudha Nair, said yesterday: "Children can hear what is going on even though the door is closed, and they can see the aftermath of violence - everything broken, their mother's bruise - it is traumatic for them.

"If you live in a home where you see and experience violence daily, it is terrorism in the home."

Pave works primarily with adults involved in family violence, and saw cases of spousal violence rise to 217 from April to December last year, 11 more than in the same period in 2014.

The number of people referred to it or requesting information went up by 22 per cent in the financial year ending in March last year, although not all of them required any follow-up.

Pave will need to raise around $200,000 of an estimated $650,000 needed to fund operations at the new child protection specialist centre - the MSF's third here - and the charity will need to recruit more social workers, beyond its current 15.

Two children referred to Pave by the Family Court were Annie, nine, and Arnold, eight (not their real names). Their father, a taxi driver and the sole breadwinner, had punched, kicked and tried to strangle their mother. He would also hit the children with a belt if he thought they were misbehaving.

Annie had felt deeply ashamed that their relatives knew about the violence, while Arnold would hardly speak to anyone.

Over 10 months of therapy with social workers, they were able to talk about their experiences and learn new ways of dealing with their feelings and negative thoughts.

To raise funds for Pave, its vice-president, Mr Alan John, is donating the royalties from the reprint of his book, Unholy Trinity, which is out in bookstores.

It tells the story of the notorious Adrian Lim ritual killings of two children in 1981 and the domestic violence he unleashed against people such as his wife, whom he beat up while he was in a trance.

Mr John, a former deputy editor of The Straits Times, said domestic violence often goes unreported by family members and neighbours.

"It is the kind of problem that is so easy for you to just look away from," he said. "The community does need to do more."

This article was first published on February 21, 2016.
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