Domestic violence has a significant and long-term effect on victims and families, along with social and economic costs.
YB Chong Eng, the State Executive Councillor for Social Development and Non-Islamic Religious Affairs, remarked, “The psychological, emotional, and social impacts of domestic violence can linger long after the violence has subsided, and even after the victim has left the abusive partner.”
She was officiating at the webinar on ‘Psychological First Aid for Victims of Domestic Violence’ on 5 December 2021 that was attended by about 50 participants. The event was organised by WOU’s Centre for Foundation Studies (CFS), International College of Clinical Hypnosis Practitioners (ICCHP) Asia and the Penang Women’s Development Corporation (PWDC) as part of the state’s Penang Goes Orange (PGO) 2021 campaign.
She mentioned the increase in sexual and gender-based violence in the world, and stressed the need to strengthen access to psychological support for survivors. Psychological first aid (PFA), she explained, is a supportive response to people who are suffering so that they feel safe, are connected to information, services and others, and remain calm and hopeful.
Chong said that most victims of domestic violence are women and young girls. She cited police statistics of a 35% increase in domestic violence cases in Penang in the first six months this year compared to the same period last year, adding that a large number of cases go unreported.
She drew attention to the ‘Shadow Pandemic’ which describes the growing violence – including physical, emotional and sexual abuse – against women and girls globally amid the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns.
She reiterated the aim of the PGO initiative to raise awareness on domestic violence, provide a platform for victims, and to educate the public on the support available. “The most important element in addressing these challenges is to create awareness and promote access to justice and psychological first aid,” she said.
Chong also highlighted the economic costs of domestic violence. “An International Monetary Fund (IMF) research has revealed that domestic violence has a multi-dimensional effect on the overall health of an economy, both in the short-term and long-term.”
She continued, “In the short-term, women from abusive homes are likely to work fewer hours and be less productive. In the long run, high levels of domestic violence can decrease the number of women in the workforce, minimise women’s acquisition of skills and education, and result in less public investment overall as more public resources are channelled to health and judicial services.”
Acknowledging the importance of rendering psychological first aid to victims, she thanked WOU for sponsoring 10 women leaders to pursue the PFA course at the University in February 2022.
She encouraged more practitioners from the judiciary and the police force to take up the PFA course. “They will then be able to learn clear frameworks, and implement positive interventions at these institutions for best outcomes.” As a consequence, victims would feel that they are able to go to the police and get adequate help, and will receive a fair trial.