Case Studies by Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) Penang

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Case Studies (16 - 21) by Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) Penang

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Case 16: Domestic violence not recognised as a crime, but considered a personal family matter

Despite suffering physical and verbal abuse during her courtship years, J went ahead and married her partner. The abuse continued during the marriage. One day, J was strangled and pushed by her husband after a disagreement pertaining to parenting. She suffered bruising as a result. J came to seek help from WCC. She was counselled and also referred to the One Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) at the local hospital for medical assistance. After deciding she wanted to leave the marriage, J went to lodge a police report.

The investigating officer (IO) was reluctant to investigate the case and refused to issue a letter for an IPO. The next day J’s husband was summoned to the police station to give a statement. J’s husband gave his version of the incident. After listening to J’s husband, the IO then told J that it was a “personal family matter” (hal rumah tangga), and therefore could not be regarded as a domestic violence incident. The IO told J she had to be fair and listen to both sides of the story. She advised J to listen to her husband as J too was at fault.

The WCC social worker discussed various options with J, one of which was writing a letter to determine the status of the case. However J was too afraid and so she chose to leave things as they were. The WCC social worker suggested that J keep the IO’s number and to call the IO should her husband behave violently again in the future.

Remarks:

·         The IO did not take the complaint of domestic violence seriously.

·         The IO in listening to the husband’s side of the story took sides and became judgemental.

·         The IO’s attitude meant that the client’s fear was not recognised and her right to protection under the law (issuance of an IPO) was ignored.

Case 17: IO gave no updates to survivor about the progress of the case

After being married for two years, L’s mother-in-law insisted L and her husband move into the family home. L soon found that in the family home, she was not able to spend time alone with her husband and her husband spent a lot of time out of the house. Sometime later, L discovered her husband was having an affair with another woman and he began to physically and emotionally abuse L. This abuse (slapping, kicking, use of harsh language e.g. “go and die”) continued despite L being pregnant. L became suicidal because of the abuse and the affairs her husband continued to have. L filed two police reports over a three-year period.

The WCC social worker contacted the investigating officer (IO) for an update on the two reports and was informed that the husband had been charged under Section 323 of the Penal Code and a warrant of arrest had been issued for the husband. Despite following up with the IO, L did not receive any more information regarding the case. About a month later, L contacted the IO again only to be told that the IO had not arrested her husband as he was about to be married to the person he was currently involved with. L’s husband also contacted L, saying he would divorce her and provide maintenance for their child, provided she withdraw the charge against him.

The WCC advocacy team then sought help from a watching brief lawyer (WBL) for L. The WBL was helpful and contacted the IO.  Soon after, L was informed that her husband would be charged under Section 326A (“Punishment for causing hurt by spouse”) of the Penal Code, which he eventually was.

Remarks:

·         The IO was difficult to contact and the client felt that the IO was not helping her access justice or protection when she was the victim of domestic violence.

·         Furthermore the IO did not comply with her responsibility of updating the complainant on the status of the case. According to section 107A of the Criminal Procedure Code, the officer in charge has to give a status report on the investigation within two weeks.

·         The WBL was able to establish a good rapport with the IO and get regular updates of the case.

Case 18:  IO unaware of PO application procedure and erroneously applied for IPO

G and her husband have been married for eight years. They have three sons. G’s husband started to physically abuse her one month into their marriage. G lodged nine police reports but withdrew all of them. The episodes of abuse continued on average once or twice each month. G was once locked up against her will in the house for seven days. G was hesitant to divorce her husband because of her children’s wellbeing.

G finally made up her mind to report her husband when she began to fear for the safety of her children. G was referred to WCC by the One Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) at the hospital after deciding to follow through on her latest police report. The investigating officer (IO) arrested the perpetrator shortly after G lodged a police report. The perpetrator was subsequently charged in court.

WCC's advocacy officer explained protection orders (PO) to G (as the husband had already been charged). G approached the IO for a PO for herself and her three children as she feared for their safety since her husband was out on bail. However the IO said he was not familiar with PO applications. The WCC social worker referred him to the Garis Panduan.

The IO then said he could not apply for a PO without written consent from the victim. G gave her written consent, stating her intention to apply for a PO for herself and her children. The IO proceeded with the application but erroneously applied for an IPO instead of a PO. The IO was reluctant to submit another application but did so eventually.

Later, G was involved in an accident. She was pushed off her motorcycle from the back and sustained severe injuries as a result. She suspected her husband was involved. The WCC social worker informed the IO about the accident and asked him to speed up the PO application. The IO insisted that G collect the PO personally despite her being in pain and recovering from her injuries.

Remarks:

  • The IO was quick to make an arrest.
  • The perpetrator was charged quickly.
  • The IO was not clear about the difference between an IPO and a PO and ended up applying for the wrong protection for the client.
  • The officer was insensitive to the client's injuries and insisted she collect the PO personally despite her injuries.

 
Case 19: Postponements in DV court case result in justice being delayed for survivor

S was married to her husband for 14 years before obtaining a divorce. S was granted the sole custody of her children and her husband was ordered to pay maintenance for the children, but has not made any payments since the divorce. After the divorce, S allowed her husband to live in the marital home for three years before asking him to move out.

On one occasion when the ex-husband was still in the marital home, he came home drunk with five other men. S was in the living room and her ex-husband pulled out a knife and demanded S perform sexual intercourse with him. He hit S on her head and face and pushed her down onto a chair. He further threatened to kill her if she did not agree to having sexual intercourse with him. S managed to escape and called the police. She went for a medical check-up and filed a report at a police station.

S’s ex-husband was charged under Section 323 of the Penal Code. Unfortunately, the trial did not begin due to several postponements largely due to a variety of excuses from the defence lawyer. Eventually, after the eleventh postponement, the trial began two-and-a-half years after S’s ex-husband had been charged.

Due to S’s frustration with the postponements and because she felt that the DPP was not very approachable, WCC sought help from a watching brief lawyer (WBL) for S. The case is now on-going.

Remarks:

·         While postponements in a court case are sometimes unavoidable, in this case, eleven postponements indicate a dereliction of duty of those involved in the process.

·         It was not only very stressful for the client but also put her at risk of further harm as she had no legal protection against her ex-husband, who was out on bail.

Case 20: Service Providers confused of their roles and responsibilities under DVA

Z has been married for two years, has two children, and lives with her husband’s family in the family home, which has more than 10 family members. Z is a victim of domestic violence. She has been beaten up by both her husband and her sister-in-law on several occasions. She is often put down by her in-laws for having different opinions on things. Z felt humiliated by the situation and left the family home.

Z sought help from WCC who advised her to lodge a police report and get an IPO to protect herself and her two young children (whom she later brought out of the house with her) from further violence. However, when she lodged her report, her IO refused to provide a referral letter for an IPO application. Instead, he insisted, given that Z had said she wanted to leave her husband, that he would only assist her with a divorce application. When Z sought help from the welfare officer, she was told to reconcile with her abusive husband. Eventually with WCC intervention on behalf of Z, the IO issued the referral letter for an IPO to Z.

Remarks

  • Both the IO and the welfare officer did not follow their roles as ascribed in the guidelines to handling cases of domestic violence.
  • Neither the IO nor the welfare officer recognised domestic violence as a criminal offence.
  • Options of divorce or reconciliation did not recognise the crime of domestic violence nor the issue of the client’s safety.
  • The client ended up being both confused and overwhelmed when seeking help and protection from the abuse.

Case 21: Survivor caught in cycle of abuse withdraws DV complaint

Despite experiencing abuse during her courtship years, C still married her husband. The domestic violence continued after the marriage took place. Within a two-year period, C made two police reports against her husband. She sought medical treatment at the One Stop Crisis Centre at the local hospital.

The investigating officer (IO) was quick to respond and C’s husband was arrested and released on bail after being charged under Section 323 of the Penal Code.  The WCC social worker managed to get the IO to issue a referral letter for applying for a PO for C.  C obtained the PO through the help of the welfare officer.

While the case was mentioned several times in court, C’s husband managed to persuade C to withdraw her complaint and agree to file for divorce instead. The case was finally dismissed not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA), as C requested her complaint be withdrawn

Remarks:

·         The withdrawal of complaints should be seen within the context of the cycle of violence many survivors of domestic violence go through.

·    Those working with domestic violence survivors must be aware that, while some survivors will withdraw their reports, not all will. Hence investigative standards must always be maintained.

·     The safety of domestic violence survivors is paramount and, where possible, protection orders should be sought once a perpetrator has been charged. A PO can still be issued when a case is compounded under Section 260 of the CPC (refer to Section 13(b) DVA). 

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