WAO urges strong, consistent messaging on avenues for help for domestic violence survivors

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The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) welcomes the National Security Council’s recent public service announcements (PSAs) on domestic violence.

These PSAs are working. The Talian Kasih 15999 April statistics show that, following the PSAs, more survivors are reaching out for help.

We urge the government – in particular the National Security Council, the police and the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development to:

  • At regular intervals, continue issuing PSAs on domestic violence (eg through SMS), to inform survivors and observers (eg neighbours) that they can call 15999 or 999 to report abuse. This should continue during and after the movement control order. The PSAs should also assure survivors they will not be arrested or detained for escaping a violent household during the movement control order period
  • Inform the public (eg through press statements or social media) about how they can obtain protection orders (emergency protection orders, interim protection orders and protection orders) during the movement control order period. Currently, survivors are unsure whether and how court-issued interim protection orders and Social Welfare Department-issued emergency protection orders can be obtained during the movement control order period. The government should also make clear to the public, what the process to obtain the protection orders is during the movement control order
  • Increase the number of Talian Kasih operators to meet the anticipated increase in demand. As the PSAs continues to roll out to the wider population, Talian Kasih may register a further uptick in survivors seeking help

The SMS announcement, which was first sent out on 20 April, reads, “The government views seriously cases of domestic violence and abuse during the MCO. Channel your complaints to the Royal Malaysian Police or Talian Kasih (15999).”

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This follows on from a similar announcement on 12 April by Senior Minister for Security Cluster Ismail Sabri Yaakob on television, and widely reported in the media.

Since then, according to Talian Kasih statistics published by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, there has been an surge in domestic violence and child rights-related hotline activity.

Beginning on 12 April, the number of calls began a slow climb into double-digit territory. On 20 April, after the SMS PSA, Talian Kasih hotline registered its sharpest spike in activity to date.

The WAO believes that this is due to the government signalling a clear and effective response to domestic violence, which encourages survivors and bystanders to step forward.

Research carried out by scholars at Columbia University have reported that women show “more willingness to take complaints to the police and became more sanguine that their allegations will be believed rather than denounced” when exposed to assuring media messages.

Consistent public messaging can reduce the stigma around domestic violence, as well as embolden survivors and bystanders to take action. It breeds the feeling that survivors are surrounded by safe communities that will not turn a blind eye to socially harmful behaviour.

To all survivors out there, you can call the 24-hour WAO hotline at 03 7956 3488 or WhatsApp TINA at 018 9888 058 for support and assistance.

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