Domestic Violence Campaign in Malaysia

Introduction

What is domestic violence? Domestic violence is define as any form of aggressive and violent behaviour afflicted on family members or partners, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, culture or background (“Definition,” n.d.).

On 8th March 2014, the campaign #NoExcuseForAbuse was launched in conjunction with International Women’s Day. The campaign is hosted by Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) which is a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Malaysia. The organization aims to promote and create respect, protection and fulfillment of equal rights for women. The idea is that no one deserves to be abuse (About us, n. d., “WAO Vision and Mission”).

For more than six months of planning, the campaign was brought to life by Art Director, Justin Phang and his team and it was successfully launched at Publika, Kuala Lumpur on 8th March 2014. The campaign is supported by Studio DL, Publika, TWBA Kuala Lumpur, My Hero Hypermarket and the US Embassy.

Research

In Malaysia, 39% of women are estimated to have faced domestic violence, but they often hide the truth of this social problem due to the traditional belief in the privacy of the family and the closeness of marriage relationships. According to a national research study in Malaysia which is conducted by WAO between 1990 and 1992, 1.8 million or 36% of women above the age 15 were beaten by their partners. In 1989, only 909 of them actually reported violence to the police (Domestic Violence, n.d., “The Malaysian Context,” para. 1).

Many women who face domestic abuse may experience difficulty in understanding and handling the matter. They may not even know the abuse and continue to justify it ignorantly. Many of them do not know their rights and what to do if they are being abused by their partners. Therefore, the Domestic Violence Act was implemented in 1996 to protect women from being battered and abused.

Domestic violence does not just affect women but also children. Children will be affected not only physically but also mentally. They will feel powerless and have low self esteem. Many of them may not trust people easily anymore. Besides that, many children who witness abuse will either become withdrawn, turn aggressive, or they may exhibit bullying behaviour towards other children.(The Effects of Domestic Violence (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.wao.org.my/The+Effects+of+Domestic+Violence+on+Children_106_62_1.htm)

Based on the story of Sanjeev, a witness of domestic violence that we found in our research, Sanjeev started to witness his father abusing his mother when he was only two years old. He realized that his mother was beaten by his father even before he was born at a later time. In one particular incident, Sanjeev witnessed his father tried to hit his mother by using a chair and threatened her with a knife. Sanjeev saw all these through a keyhole. At that time, his brothers and sisters were with him. He proclaimed, “Feel like kicking him!!” “One cent also won’t give him!” and “He’s no more in my family”, when he was asked about how he felt towards his father. (The Effects of Domestic Violence (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.wao.org.my/The+Effects+of+Domestic+Violence+on+Children_106_62_1.htm)

Domestic violence brings bad impact to children. Children are weak and helpless witnesses of the violence that happens in their homes because they are no able to oppose. Mothers always feel that it is hard to escape from their abusive partners and tell themselves to stay until their children grown up to give them a better and complete condition for development. It happens as the father is the real economical support of the family. However, these experiences of growing up in an abusive environment might have a long-term impact on children’s lives. (The Effects of Domestic Violence (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.wao.org.my/The+Effects+of+Domestic+Violence+on+Children_106_62_1.htm)

The witnessing of domestic violence by children is a psychological abuse for the child. The child’s development of self and social ability will be affected by the abusive action of adult. They will feel fear thus causing them to feel that they live in an unsafe and unstable condition when threaten and abused through verbal or physical. All these factors contribute to an unhealthy condition for child growth. (The Effects of Domestic Violence (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.wao.org.my/The+Effects+of+Domestic+Violence+on+Children_106_62_1.htm

Action

The main goal of the campaign is to raise public awareness and education towards domestic violence. The campaign hopes to encourage women who are abuse either physically, mentally or emotionallyto reach out for aid. It aims to educate the public on the issue and provides a channel for victims to seek for help.#NoExcuseForAbuse (2014,March 8) Retrieved from http://www.wao.org.my/news_details.php?nid=320&ntitle=#NoExcuseForAbuse+

This objective is in line with its organization, WAO which is to offer emotional and social support and care to women. Asides from that, the organisation goals which is to spread the awareness of violence against women to public and related agencies is also publicized through this campaign. About us (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.wao.org.my/About+Us_3_3_1.htm

The campaign targets the beginning stage of domestic violence in which the situation has not aggravated into a serious state. It is generally aimed at women who are under abuse and are not sure whether the experience that they are going through is normal. They hope to send out the message that any sort of abuse whether it is physical, verbal or emotional should not be tolerated. Hence the slogan, “Be it physical, verbal or emotional, there’s #NoExcuseForAbuse”.#NoExcuseForAbuse (2014,March 8) Retrieved from http://www.wao.org.my/news_details.php?nid=320&ntitle=#NoExcuseForAbuse+

Communications

In order to achieve the campaign’s goal, several events had been organized to ensure its success. Firstly, an installation art exhibition was held at Publika, Kuala Lumpur from 8th March till 17th March 2014. Subsequently, it was held at My Hero Supermarket in Puchong and Sri Damansara from 22nd March till 31 March 2014.The exhibition portrays hand-stitched words of the voices of victim survivors on blouses. “It’s alright, he apologised. He said he’ll never do it again.” and “I’m afraid of him, but leaving him will bring shame to my family” weresome of the voices featured on the blouses. Theaim of the exhibition is to create the same feelings and thoughts of what the victims has felt.#NoExcuseForAbuse (2014,March 8) Retrieved from http://www.wao.org.my/news_details.php?nid=320&ntitle=#NoExcuseForAbuse+

Secondly, posters of high profile women wearing the t-shirts with the message “Be it physical, verbal or emotional, #NoExcuseForAbuse” were release online on social media. 27 women pledging their support for the campaign namely, YB Hajah Nancy Shukri (Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department), YB Hannah Yeoh (Selangor Assembly Speaker), YB NurulIzzah (MP for LembahPantai) and YB Mas ErmieyatiSamsudin (Putri UMNO Chief)were featured on the online posters. The campaign encourages the public to send in their pledge of support by taking photos and posting them on social media with tag #NoExcuseForAbuse.#NoExcuseForAbuse (2014,March 8) Retrieved from http://www.wao.org.my/news_details.php?nid=320&ntitle=#NoExcuseForAbuse+

Lastly, a helpline was also released on the day the campaign was launched. TINA (Think I Need Aid) is a SMS helpline where members of the public may message to seek for advice or to report any suspicious case of abuse that they know.It is the first of it’s kind in Malaysia and they operate from Monday to Friday, 9.00 am till 5.30 pm. Advocacy officer, Sally Wangsawijaya (2014) said that victims especially the younger generation will find the SMS helpline more preferable as it will be like an informal conversation and they can remain anonymous. Additionally, it will also be a safer method for the victims to seek for help if the culprit is nearby. She noted that the victims will be referred to social worker when they are ready as consent is needed before the victims can be counselled. #NoExcuseForAbuse (2014,March 8) Retrieved from http://www.wao.org.my/news_details.php?nid=320&ntitle=#NoExcuseForAbuse+

Evaluation

Basing on the data and information that we have collected, we came to an agreement that this campaign has been effective in trying to raise public awareness and education towards domestic violence.

As one of the main objectives of the campaign is to reach out to those who are in doubt and confuse about the happenings in their relationship, an installation art exhibition has been launched to inform the public on this matter. We agree that this method is effective in relaying its message as it aims to portray the similar feeling that is experienced by the victims through a display of hand-stitched words on blouses that represents the voices of the victim survivors. By putting ourselves in the victim’s shoe, we feel that this exhibition is able to create the necessary motivation and encouragement to speak out and to seek for appropriate help.

In addition, we feel that the pledge of support given by 27 high profile women volunteers is able to send out the message that women can be strong and independent on their own and they should not succumb to abuse. This action is in line with the campaign’s main message which is ‘Be it physical, verbal or emotional, there’s #NoExcuseForAbuse’.

Asides from that, we believe that the SMS helpline, TINA (Think I Need Aid) that was set up is a smart move to further encourage victims of domestic violence to reach out for help. Josiah, I. (n.d). The thought of calling might be too much and speaking through the phone may also pose danger especially if the perpetrator is nearby. My teammates and I agree that calling might not be the best option for the victims to voice out as some of them could be in doubt and they are worry about the consequence of their actions. We believe that the victims will feel safer to reach out by messaging as they can remain anonymous. Moreover, the victims will not miss out any message that is being relayed as the message sent out could be reread. This method is useful and more convenient to those who might be engage during daytime and to victims where the abuser is nearby.

All in all, we would like to conclude that the campaign, #NoExcuseForAbuse has been effective in relaying out its message which is to raise public awareness and education towards domestic violence whilst providing a helpline to those in need. However, we feel that the campaign has yet to be exposed to the whole of Malaysia as it has been launched for only a short period of time and currently there are no on-going events or activities.

References

Definition. (n. d.). Retrieved from http://www.domesticviolencelondon.nhs.uk/1-what-is-domestic-violence-/1-definition.html

About us. (n. d.). WAO Vision and Mission. Retrieved from http://www.wao.org.my/About+Us_3_3_1.htm

Domestic Violence. (n.d.). The Malaysian Context [para. 1]. Retrieved from http://www.wao.org.my/Domestic+Violence_98_5_1.htm