Updated: 01/25/2014 00:12

Spousal abuse and elderly abuse cases on the rise

Spousal abuse and elderly abuse cases on the rise

As Singapore's ageing population grows, social workers are observing an upward trend in the number of elder abuse cases. 

They're also seeing more case of violence involving families with foreign spouses. 

At the National Family Violence Networking Symposium today, Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Low Yen Ling noted that demographics in Singapore are changing, and efforts against family violence have to be adapted accordingly. 

Our news desk hears from social workers on the ground. 

Social worker Agnes Chia has seen a spike in the number of elder abuse cases at her centre in the last two years. 

Care Corner Project StART, a family violence specialist centre, has been handling 30 per cent more cases each year. 

In comparison, the number of such cases were increasing at a rate of 10 to 20 per cent in 2010 and 2011. 

Parliamentary Secretary for Family and Social Development Low Yen Ling offers an explanation. 

"Our demographics in Singapore are changing. There will be more seniors and there will be more people with disability who are living longer. And some may lose their mental capacity over time; some will become entirely reliant on care by others. Coupled with higher caregiver's stress brought about by shrinking families in Singapore, this may unfortunately create more potential situations for abuse." 

Elder abuse could manifest in many forms: emotionally, physically and increasingly, financially. 

Caregiver stress may be a possible trigger, but social workers say that addictions to alcohol and gambling could also spark off abuse. 

Social worker Yee Choy Yin says many cases continue to go unreported. 

"If they were to report their children, they would feel that they're embarrassing themselves and their children. They might also see it as a failure on their part - to bring up children up well. It's akin to 'you don't wash your dirty laundry in public'. The other reason is the fear of repercussions. In the case of elderly abuse, a lot of them are still reliant on their children for help. They don't want to upset the relationship." 

Mrs Yee, who's the Executive Director of TRANS Family Service Centre, has also seen more cases of spousal abuse. 

In particular, violence in marriages between a Singaporean and a foreigner. 

"In most situations, it's a marriage of convenience. There may not be sufficient understanding of what a marriage entails. So when difficulties arise, the couple may not be able to resolve it in an amicable way. Resorting to violence becomes one of the options they choose. Over time, it becomes habitual." 

The victim, usually a woman, becomes vulnerable due to the lack of social support. 

In such instances, Mrs Yee urges members of the public to help. 

Should they suspect any cases of family violence, they can contact family service centres and provide them with more details. 

-By Valerie Koh

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