Abuse is usually an attempt by a family member to apply control through threats, fear, verbal abuse or violence. Victims of family violence may be cut off from friends, family and neighbours and lose their network of social support. With time, the abuser may use more severe methods to maintain control. Eventually the violence may lead to serious injury and can result in hospitalisation, or even death.

Family violence robs victims of their right to maintain control over their own lives. Individuals who are abused live in fear in the one place they should always feel safe – their home. They are often lonely and so it is difficult for them to get outside help. They often depend on the abuser financially and emotionally. They tend to live in fear and dare not break away from the violence. As a result, they may feel helpless, confused, anxious and have low self-esteem. Sometimes, thoughts of suicide may cross their minds. In severe cases, victims get badly injured, and even end up dying.

Children may be more aggressive or be affected by the violence they have observed at home. International research has found that boys who witness family violence are more likely to abuse their female partners as adults, and girls who witness their mother's abuse are more likely to enter into a relationship where they may be abused by their partners as adults.

What children see and hear leaves a strong impact on them. International research shows that they may suffer from undesirable emotional effects such as anxiety, fear, depression, guilt, low self esteem, and may develop criminal behaviour. They may be scarred by the experience and become withdrawn, timid and shy. Or, they may learn the violent behaviour and display aggression when relating with their siblings, friends and show cruelty to pets. They may also perform poorly in school.

Children who witness violence were also found to show more anxiety, aggression, depression and tempermental problems, less empathy and self-esteem, and lower verbal, cognitive, and motor abilities than children who did not witness violence at home. There is also some support for the hypothesis that children from violent families of origin carry violent and violence-tolerant roles to their adult intimate relationships.
MYTH: Fighting is part and parcel of family life.
FACT:Differences and conflicts happen amongst family members. However, in a healthy family relationship, members seek ways to overcome their differences. Violence is not a normal part of family life.
MYTH: Family violence is a private matter.
FACT: Family violence affects everyone, including the children. Violence is not a normal part of a marital relationship, and is unacceptable.

MYTH: Violence will eventually stop.
FACT: Family violence is often not a one-time act. Most victims are caught in a cycle of violence. After a violent episode, the abuser may feel sorry and promise to change for the better. However after some time, the tension will build up and the abuser resorts to violence again. The abuse can get more frequent and serious – it may even claim a life.

MYTH: Alcohol or drugs are to be blamed for the violence.
FACT: Alcohol may intensify violent behaviour but it is NOT the cause. There are people who drink or take drugs but do not become violent. Many of those who use violence do not drink or take drugs either. Alcohol or drugs is not an excuse for abusive behaviour.

MYTH: The victim is to be blamed for provoking violence.
FACT: Very often, the violence and anger is triggered by something which the victim has no control over. No one deserves to be abused, regardless of the behaviours of the victim. There are alternative ways of handling a situation without resorting to violence.

MYTH: Family violence only occurs among the poor and uneducated.
FACT: Statistics have shown that family violence happens to people of all ages, races, religions, occupational, educational and financial backgrounds.

MYTH: If the situation was really that bad, the victim could just leave.
FACT: The victim may have reasons for not leaving – love, fear, embarrassment, low self-esteem, financial restraints or consideration for the children. Staying in a violent relationship does not mean that the victim wants to be abused.

MYTH: Abusers are clearly violent in all their relationships.
FACT: An abuser may be extremely violent at home but may be reasonable and respectable outside the family. Abusers do not look any different from your neighbour, colleague, friend or boss.


Family violence isn't just fighting, or an occasional mean argument. The abuser may control the victim through threats, bullying, and physical violence. 

The family is the basic unit of society. When violence takes place within the family, the impact is felt by everyone and there can be alarming consequences. Singapore takes a serious view of violence in any form – the community and the government will step in to provide protection to victims of violence and to address the offending behaviour.

Family violence is any violent, threatening or controlling behaviour that occurs within the family. This includes not only physical injury but direct threats, sexual assault, emotional and psychological distress, damage to property, forced restraint, being forced to avoid friends and family members and any behaviour which causes a person to live in fear. It occurs within a variety of close relationships, such as between spouses, parents and children, siblings and relatives.

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  • Wilfully or knowingly placing or attempting to place a family member in fear of hurt
  • Causing hurt to a family member by such act which is known or ought to have been known would result in hurt
  • Wrongfully confining or restraining a family member against his will
  • Causing continual harassment with intent to cause or knowing that it is likely to cause anguish to a family member

Under the law, a ‘family member’ is defined as ‘a spouse or former spouse, a child (including adopted and step children), parents, parents-in-law, sibling or any other relative or incapacitated person whom the court regards as a family member.’


There are different types of family violence. The abuse may be physical, or verbal, or a combination of both.

test lfet Child Abuse
Violence against/neglect of children
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Spousal Abuse
Violence against spouses and ex-spouses

test lfet  Elder Abuse
Violence against/neglect of an elderly member of the family
test lfet  Adult Abuse
Violence towards a person 18 years and above with mental or physical infirmity/disability/incapacity

Physical Abuse is the use of violence to cause physical harm to a family member.

When physical violence occurs, victims of abuse may have visible injuries such as bruises, cuts and scars on lips and mouth, broken arms or fractures. If the abuse is serious, the injuries inflicted may result in death. Victims of abuse may feel ashamed to talk about the abuse and will give excuses about their injuries or may try to hide them.

While the following list is not an exhaustive one, you may be a victim of physical abuse if a family member has:

  • Slapped or bitten you
  • Kicked or choked you
  • Hit or punched you
  • Thrown objects at you
  • Locked you in the house
  • Threatened to hurt you with a weapon
  • Given you poison

Emotional & psychological abuse consists of behaviour which damages a family member’s self-worth and/or puts a family member in fear.

The victims may suffer from low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and some may have suicidal thoughts. Abused victims may feel isolated and confused about their situations. They may feel a sense of helplessness and continue to live in fear. While it can occur on its own, it may also co-exist with other forms of abuse.

While the following list is not an exhaustive one, you may be a victim of emotional & psychological abuse if a family member has:

  • Continually criticised you, called you names or shouted at you
  • Insulted or driven away your friends or family
  • Humiliated you in private or public
  • Kept you from working, controlled your money or made all the decisions
  • Threatened to harm family members or pets which are close to you and which you love and care for, or keep them away from you when the abuser was angry with you
  • Destroyed personal items, especially items which hold a special meaning to you


Sexual abuse can be labelled as any behaviour of a sexual nature which takes place without permission or understanding. Anyone can be a victim of sexual abuse, no matter what age they are and regardless of whether they are male or female.

While the following list is not an exhaustive one, you may be a victim of sexual abuse if a family member has:

  • Insisted on unwanted or uncomfortable touching on private areas of your body
  • Raped you
  • Exposed you to sexual acts or pornographic material and you are under 16 years of age


Neglect is the intentional denial of a family member’s needs and/or the failure to provide said family member with enough food, shelter, clothing, medical care and supervision (when needed).

While the following list is not an exhaustive one, you may be a victim of neglect if a family member has:

  • Not attended to your medical needs
  • Denied medication or intentionally administered inappropriate medication
  • Denied you food over a period of time
  • Denied a child, elderly or mentally incapacitated person proper care and supervision
  • Denied social contact