The Wom*n’s Officers Remarkable Effort against Domestic Violence in conjunction with International Women’s Day
“Forty-four women (40%) of the 110 domestic violence survivors surveyed reported experiences of domestic violence occurring for more than five years; 45 women (41%) for between one and five years; and 21 women (19%) for less than one year. This means that up to 89 women (81%) could be classified as having faced sustained and prolonged violence in the home (more than one year in duration.”
-Women’s Aid Organisation, Malaysia
“Nine percent of ever-partnered women in Peninsular Malaysia have experienced domestic violence at some point in their lifetime, equating to over eight hundred thousand women in Malaysia who have likely experienced abuse”
–2014 study conducted by the Women’s Development Research Centre (KANITA) in Universiti Sains Malaysia
“He said he wouldn’t do it again? Will he change? Why won’t he stop hitting the kids? Why won’t anyone help me? Why does daddy keep touching me like that? Did I do something wrong?”
In 2015 alone, the Royal Malaysian Police Force has estimated that there have been over 5,000 cases of domestic violence that were reported, with a huge portion of it involving physical aggression and brutality against women. Being an issue that is often not taken seriously by the general public, it has torn families apart, lead to several murder cases and elevated the number of child sexual abuse cases over the years, most of which were often ignored and merely swept under the carpet. Women who are often targeted because of the general perception that they’re weak and incapable are left with no options to resort to and often, the cries of these victims for intervention by the public and law authorities go unheard. It is sad and devastating that this is still a huge issue that we have to face at this time and age and to have violence against women be perceived as something trivial is definitely problematic not just for our generation but for future generations as well.
Hence, in conjunction with International Women’s Day on the 8th of March (Wednesday), the Wom*n’s Officers of Monash University Malaysia held a campaign against domestic violence in their effort to create awareness about the needs and ways to combat this act of crime that’s affected hundreds of thousands of women, children and men throughout the world.
With a brilliant booth set-up outside the library, the campaign was an effort by the Wom*n’s Officers and their group of friends to raise awareness and give students and staff the opportunity to speak up against domestic violence, an issue of paramount importance. Students did so by signing their support on a banner and taking a video pledge, in which most of them vehemently expressed how they felt about domestic violence and their stance when it comes to tackling the issue.
The event started off slow with low turnout at 12p.m, but over time, the crowd grew and grew and by the end of the day, the Wom*ns Officers had successfully collected over 200 signatures and had a video footage of over 170 people pledging their support to end domestic violence, both of which were incredible accomplishments in their aim to reach out to the general student population to adopt a stance against this crime. Staff members, namely Dr Joseph Goh, Dr Sharon Bong and Ms Vizla Kumaresan, lecturers from the School of Arts and Social Sciences also showed their support by taking time off their hectic schedules to visit the booth and pledge their support for the vital cause. Students from different faculties who participated were also rewarded with delicious home-made cupcakes. Despite not having reached the target they initially had in mind, both Hannah and Jasmine who were responsible for the event expressed how extremely satisfied they were with how it had turned out and they look forward to organizing bigger and better events which tackle issues of gender discrimination in the future.
A short Q&A session was also held with Hannah & Jasmine,the Wom*n’s Officers to understand what International Women’s Day represents and their role in helping victims of domestic violence who suffer in silence.
Interviewer: Hello Hannah & Jasmine*smirks*
Hannah: Hello cutiepie! *flips hair*
Interviewer: So, can you tell me what is International Women’s Day all about?
Hannah: *Clears throat* International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th every year. It’s generally a day for women and their achievements and contributions to be acknowledged, celebrated, respected and appreciated.
Jasmine: It is also a day to recognise the blatant and subtle inequalities, challenges and discrimination faced by women.
Interviewer: What forms of domestic abuse cases are there and can you tell us more about them?
Hannah: Domestic abuse takes many forms. Many people think that domestic abuse only occurs when there is physical violence, but in truth, domestic violence can manifest in other forms too such as emotional abuse and psychological abuse. This emotional and psychological abuse can include instilling fear, hopelessness and self-doubt in the victims, which have seriously detrimental effects on physical and mental wellbeing. Even when the bruises fade, the psychological trauma faced by the victims can have a much longer-lasting effect. While it’s very true that victims of domestic violence are predominantly female, men also face domestic abuse -, though not highly reported due to the stereotypes and stigma that often accompany male victimhood
Interviewer: Why do you think it’s highly important that we create awareness about domestic violence?
Jasmine: Reflected in other countries around the world, as well as Malaysia, there is a general apathy when it comes to domestic violence because domestic violence is seen as a ‘private family issue’ that should be contained within the household. Because of this perception, which is likely grounded in cultural values that uphold the sanctity of family and marital life, people are less likely to speak out when they know domestic violence has been occurring. Thus it is so important that awareness is raised about domestic violence, that it shouldn’t be hidden, how damaging it is, and how as a community, we need to take action to end domestic violence.
Interviewer: So, as wom*n’s officers, what can you guys do and help out with when a victim approaches the both of you for help? Are there any other safe avenues they can resort if they’re unable to reach out to you guys due to safety reasons?
Hannah: As wom*n’s officers, though both Jasmine and I are equipped with a passion for gender inequality and indignation about domestic violence, we are unable to counsel victims, as we are not qualified professionals. However, we will of course provide listening ears when needed, and refer the victim to Monash counsellors and women’s rights NGOS. As for safe avenues they can reach out to – the Monash Counselling Services are always available, and NGO’s such as Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) and All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) are NGOs that have been aiding victims of domestic violence for many years, and thus are reliable & safe avenues for the victims to turn to.
Interviewer: Do you have any plans in the long run to tackle and highlight this incredibly important issue within and outside of the campus continuously in the future?
Jasmine: Apart from International Women’s Day, we will continue to discuss issues of domestic violence during our upcoming hi-tea discussions. Both of us are actively engaged with WAO and AWAM, two NGOs that continuously and tirelessly work to combat domestic violence amongst other issues of gender inequality. Should the opportunity arise, we will attempt to engage the student body to participate in events organised by these NGOs.
Interviewer: Thank you for this short session! It was incredibly nice to speak to you about this and we wish you both all the best with all you do!
Hannah & Jasmine: No problem cutiepie! It was our pleasure! It’s great that more people are joining discussions of issues pertaining to gender dynamics and participating to end gender discrimination :) To whoever out there who needs help and advice, please reach out to us – come see us or email us at email@example.com
Interviewer: Ok thanks bye.
Hannah: Ok bye. *swirls chair around and goes back to work*
All in all, the reception the event has gotten was definitely a huge milestone for the Wom*n’s Officers in their effort to engage and to be more interactive with the student community here at Monash and we hope that they continue to organise such amazing events that would bring great significance to the lives of anyone who’s ever felt helpless and afraid and who in dire need of support and assistance.
Should you know of someone who needs help, do not hesitate to contact the helplines below:
- Tell the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) should you witness/know of cases of violence against women – 03 7956 3488
- SMS Tina – 018 988 8058
- Call Befrienders at 03-79568144 or 03-79568145
- TELENITA Helpline by the All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) – 03 787 70224
- Royal Malaysian Police/ Emergency – 999
- Wom*n’s Officers, Monash University Student Association – firstname.lastname@example.org
For more education on domestic violence:-
HAPPY BELATED INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!
Words by Calvin Fernandez
Photos by Samuel Goh, Khosyi Musyaffa, and Sitwat Hashmi
Data & Statistics:-
“A Coordinated Community Response To A Community Issue – A 2017 Report by Women’s Aid Organisation”
Royal Malaysian Police Force
Hannah Reshma Jambunathan & Jasmine Gomez – Wom*n’s Officers, Monash University Malaysia.