Another Domestic Violence Death

Posted on 01 November 2013

Another Domestic Violence Death – Are We Missing the Red Flags?

Letter to the Editor
1 November 2013
We read with great sadness of yet another case of domestic violence death as reported in The Star on Monday, 28 October 2013. A woman was brutally stabbed to death by her husband. It is heartbreaking to note that this is the fourth time in the year that a woman was reportedly killed by her husband. And these are just the reported cases; many more domestic violence related deaths could have happened in which we have no way of knowing.   
The untimely deaths of Nur Hidayah A. Ghani, Vivian Biding Camarota and Lai Siew Fong are still fresh in our minds. This week, we read how Murugal Kuppusamy was stabbed to death by her drunk husband who had accused her of having an affair. In all these cases, violence was a familiar scene in the family. The eldest son of Murugal Kuppusamy was reported saying that his father is a violent man and would beat his mother every time. The incidence happened merely two weeks after he was released from prison.   
As we read these horrific news reports, we cannot help but wonder if we have been missing the red flags all along? Going back to when it all started, we want to find out if Murugal knew she was being abused? Did she know that domestic violence is a crime? How long has she endured the abuse? Was there a time in which her injuries were so severe that she needed to go to a hospital? If so, was she asked how she was injured and referred to a medical social worker? Did she know that she can seek for help from the Welfare Department?   
Did she lodge a police report? Did the neighbour report the violence to the police? Was she informed that she can apply for an Interim Protection Order (IPO), or a court order prohibiting the perpetrator from committing further violence? If she was granted an IPO, was it served to her husband? If it was served, did he continue to abuse her? What actions were taken against him then? Was he remanded? Was she informed when he was going to be released? Was there any risk assessment done upon his release? Was there any discussion on whether his movement should be monitored as he posed a high risk to his family and community? Was there any public awareness programme on domestic violence conducted in her community? 
Questions that we must ask to gauge whether our current mechanism to respond to domestic violence is adequate. Enforcement agencies have a duty to respond to domestic violence by preventing further violence and holding the perpetrator accountable, failing which its consequences can be fatal to victim survivors. Risk assessments in cases of domestic violence are crucial as there always warning signs, the red flags.
The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development recently reported that cases of domestic violence are on the rise. A recently concluded study by the Women’s Development Research Centre (Kanita), Universiti Sains Malaysia reported that nine of every 100 households in Malaysia have a woman who has experienced domestic violence. These statistics alone are enough to justify the utmost priority that ought to be given to improve existing protocols on domestic violence response. 
One last question, too many lives have been lost because we missed the red flags, isn’t it time that this stops? 
Issued by Women’s Aid Organisation, Sally Wangsawijaya, Advocacy Officer.

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