Eliminating Violence Against Women: What to do if you’re a victim or witness

By Wild Ginger

Eliminating Violence Against Women: What to do if you’re a victim or witness

November 25th, 2020 at 5:03 am

We’ve asked the Women’s Aid Organisation for their expert advice.

Violence against women and girls is one of the most common human rights violations in the world. The devastating abuse includes intimate partner violence, sexual violence and harassment, human trafficking, female genital mutilation, as well as child marriage.

Recently, there has been a global rise of violence against women due to the COVID-19 lockdown measures implemented by many countries. In Malaysia, the Women’s Aid Organisation hotline has seen an 83.33% increase in domestic violence enquiries this year.

As severe as it is, violence against women rarely gets reported because of the shame, silence, and stigma surrounding it. This is why The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women takes place every year, on the 25th of November, to help prevent and eliminate violence against women.

From the 25th of November to the 10th of December, there are 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence leading up to Human Rights Day. We’ve teamed up with the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) to raise awareness on responding to violence against women, as well as preventing it.


What is considered violence against women?

Violence against women is any act of physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological violence that women experience as a result of their gender.


What is the most common form of violence against women?

Intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence against women. Globally, nearly one third of women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical or sexual violence by their intimate partner.


Why does violence against women exist?

In general, individuals who are engaging in violent behaviour know they are doing so, don’t care that they are doing so, or both. However, part of what informs this attitude towards violence is the normalisation of violence against women in our society, such as through the media we consume, advertisements etc., and this sometimes sends the message that violence against women is acceptable.


What should a woman do if she is getting abused?

If a woman is being abused, she should seek help either by confiding in a trusted friend or family member or calling a crisis support hotline like WAO’s Hotline or Talian Kasih. If she is in immediate danger, she should seek help from the police.


What should a woman do if she’s afraid that seeking help would put her in more danger?

If a woman feels that seeking help would put her in more danger, then the best option is to try to de-escalate the situation, if possible, such as by moving into another room of the house or otherwise away from the perpetrator. However, once the immediate danger is gone, it is important for the woman to seek help and make a safety plan for herself and her children in the event the danger escalates one again.


Who should a woman contact – the police or support services?

The police and services like WAO’s or the Talian Kasih hotline are both important points of contact for women, as are hospitals. Regardless of where a woman goes first for help, she should be able to be referred to the other services she needs, whether that is shelter, medical attention, or to file a police report.


What should a woman do if she encounters difficulty filing a police report?

If a woman encounters difficulty filing a police report, she can remind the police of her rights under the Domestic Violence Act, which makes domestic violence a crime and allows individuals to receive protection from it. They can also contact WAO for assistance.


What should one do if they know someone who is being abused?

If an individual knows someone who is being abused, they should be an active rather than passive bystander, while at the same time recognising the woman’s own agency. The best approach in a situation like this is to try to reach out to the woman in a way that is discreet and won’t put her in danger, such as leaving her a note with a phone number in a place that only she will see it, or letting her know how she can signal for help if she is in danger. If there is no imminent danger, then the individual can offer support to the person by listening or advising them to call WAO’s hotline for information and advice.


How can one help someone who is being abused?

Ultimately, every woman has to make her own decisions over her life. However, it is important that women are equipped with all of the necessary information around her rights and the resources that are available to her in order to make informed decisions. By simply letting someone know that you are there if they need you, or by providing them with the contact information for other resources, this helps equip them with the necessary information while also respecting their space to make decisions for themself.


In Malaysia, is there enough awareness about the help available?

Although there is a good level of awareness in Malaysia about WAO’s hotline and shelter, and other available hotline and shelter services, there is always a need for more awareness. Particularly in rural and more remote areas, more outreach must be done to ensure that survivors of violence know that help is available to them if they need it, and to ensure that women are aware of their right to live free from violence.


What can we do to create a safer community for women?

Learning to be an active rather than passive bystander, and becoming knowledgeable on the issue of violence against women is a great place to start. This means learning to recognise violence, understanding how to reach out to survivors who may be in need and may be dealing with trauma, and knowing where to refer survivors who need shelter, counseling, or other assistance. If communities played a more active role in detecting and responding to violence against women–and in sending a clear message that violence against women is never acceptable–this could also contribute to prevention and eventually to a decrease in incidence of violence against women.


What can we do to support shelters and counselling services?

NGOs like WAO’s run on donations and public support, so that is one way to directly support WAO’s shelter and counseling services provided. Individuals can also volunteer their time to support WAO’s operations and community outreach work to help spread awareness and ensure that women in need are aware of the help available.


Women’s Aid Organisation 

Since 1982, Women’s Aid Organisation has provided free shelter, counselling, and crisis support to women and children who experience abuse. We help women and their children rebuild their lives, after surviving domestic violence, rape, trafficking, and other atrocities. Learning from women’s experiences, we advocate to improve public policies and shift public mindsets. Together, we change lives.

Call the WAO Hotline at 03 7956 3488 or SMS/WhatsApp TINA at 018 988 8058 if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse. For more information, visit wao.org.my.



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