by Arina Ong
Published January 21, 2017
There has been a prevalence of domestic violence lately.
In 2016, the Kuala Lumpur Hospital recorded up to 150 domestic violence cases per month.
More often than not, victims of domestic violence tend to suffer in silence; many assume that only physical injuries merit legal recourse, and do not understand what course of action they may take.
Yet by law, domestic violence actually includes psychological abuse, sexual abuse and commission of other acts – in summary, they extend to:
(a) placing the victim in fear of physical injury;
(b) physical injury;
(c) engaging in acts, including sexual acts (e.g.: oral and anal sex) from which the victim has a right to abstain;
(d) confining or detaining against the victim’s will;
(e) causing mischief or destruction or damage to property with intent to cause or knowing that it is likely to cause distress or annoyance to the victim;
(f) psychological abuse including emotional injury;
(g) causing the victim to suffer delusions by using intoxicating substances without the victim’s consent or where the consent was unlawfully obtained; or
(h) causing a child to suffer delusions by using intoxicating substances.
The acts that constitute domestic violence are set out under Section 2 of the Domestic Violence Act 1994 (“the Act”).
This was the law passed to fulfill the government’s commitment under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women General Recommendation No. 19, and which had come into force on 01.06.1996.
The Act recognises that domestic violence is not a private matter; in fact, it is a crime, which falls under the Penal Code.
Individuals, the government and non-governmental organisations (“NGOs”) must work together as a systematic partnership to ensure that no victim in need of justice and protection falls through the cracks where domestic violence occurs.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, consider these actions:
Getting Medical Help
Seek medical assistance at the nearest clinic/hospital if you have sustained physical injuries.
Lodging a Police Report
Lodge a police report against the abuser. State clearly the date, time and venue of the incident of domestic violence, what had happened and what effect it had on you thereafter (e.g.: bruises, psychological trauma etc).
Should you fear for your and/or your children’s safety, inform the Investigation Officer (“IO”) that you intend to obtain an Interim Protection Order (“IPO”). The IO may then give you a referral letter; take this letter to the Welfare Department, and the Social Welfare Officer will assist you with your application for an IPO at the Magistrates’ Court.
Applying for an Interim Protection Order (“IPO”)
An IPO is a court order to prevent an abusive spouse from committing further violence against you, your children and/or other family members, pending the investigation as to the allegation of domestic violence.
The IPO may provide that the abuser cannot incite another person to commit domestic violence against you.
The court may include a power of arrest in the IPO, which entitles the police to arrest the abuser without a warrant, if the court is satisfied that the abuser will continue to commit domestic violence.
The IPO is merely temporary. It ceases to have effect once the police have completed their investigations, or once the abuser is charged in court for his acts of domestic violence.
Applying for a Protection Order (“PO”)
You may apply for a PO during criminal proceedings, i.e. when the abuser has been charged in court for domestic violence. The PO provides a longer period of protection, and may last for 12 months, with an extension of another 12 months.
Similarly, the PO serves to restrain the abuser from continuing his domestic violence, and also from inciting others to commit domestic violence against you, your children and/or other family members.
The court may grant the following orders in the PO, if necessary, to protect and secure the safety of yourself and your children:
(a) exclusive occupation of your house or any part of it, to you and your children;
(b) prohibiting the abuser from going near you and your children within a certain distance, be it at home, at your work place or at school;
(c) requiring the abuser to allow you and your children to collect your personal belongings in the house, accompanied by enforcement officers;
(d) limiting the abuser’s communication with you and your children;
(e) requiring the abuser to allow you to continue to use your vehicles;
(f) other directions as the court may deem necessary to ensure that the PO is effective.
The Act does not specify that the victim must be a woman. As the statute reads:
The abuser may be either male or female.
Both men and women are allowed protection under the Act, as well as anyone who has been abused by his/her spouse, former spouse and any other family members.
The Act does not cover violence committed by boyfriends/girlfriends. They may still however lodge a police report for assault.
There are instances where the court has granted compensation to victims of domestic violence, and which takes account of whether they had suffered physical injuries, psychological abuse, damage to property and/or financial loss. This remedy of monetary is explicitly provided under section 10 of the Act.
If you are confronted with domestic violence by your loved one, keep calm, and remain optimistic.
If you are a victim, or if you know any such person, you may contact the Women’s Aid Organisation and/or the Women’s Centre for Change for assistance. The social workers there can accompany you to any police station, hospital and the Welfare Department. They may also provide temporary shelter as the matter is being dealt with.
It is advisable to seek an advocate and solicitor so that you may be properly advised as to your rights, and better understand the legal options available to you.