The feminine ideal

Written by Teejay Vergara, Change Maker

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 11.31.11 am There has always been a tremendous pressure for women to conform to a ‘feminine’ standard, especially once they hit puberty. Suddenly, hair starts growing on certain areas of your body you didn’t even know was possible.

Some girls start wearing padded bras, plucking their eyebrows, shaving their legs and armpits and waxing their upper lip hair.

Sometimes, we live our lives parallel to these unspoken rules to feel like we belong. The problem is, beauty standards have always been so inexplicably unrealistic that it’s always impossible to achieve.

We face a constant struggle to be the best version of ourselves, but ironically, we follow these unwritten rules society set for us hence, our plummeting self-esteem. Like Lena Dunham, I tried to hide my self-hatred with an aggressive “self-acceptance” by cutting my hair short, dyeing it a weird seaweed green and wearing all sorts of clothes that didn’t match. I’ve always admired girls with short hair, so I thought I’d stop looking at them from afar and just be one  myself.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 11.31.30 amThere is a silent expectation for women to be in competition with one another: to have the most proportioned eyebrows, the smoothest legs, or even the whitest armpits. It might seem absurd to think about these things out of context, but it’s happening – in the advertisements we see, and the products we’re sold – and it’s been happening for a long time.

However, thanks to the Internet, there have been an ongoing dialogue about double standards, beauty standards and inequality, and several campaigns to raise awareness on it. Times are changing and so are we.

It was a big deal when Jemima Kirke showed up on a red carpet event with unshaven armpits. Somehow, dyeing them with pastel colors even became a trend. But it doesn’t have to be just a trend because trends end. We should educate women, especially little girls, that they shouldn’t feel as though they have to conform to any societal stereotypes or expectations. They are in charge of their own bodies and being or looking a little different doesn’t degrade their value as people. We shouldn’t be disgusted with our natural form.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 11.31.52 amHair is not the only issue though. Through the recent Free The Nipple Campaign, we bring light to the objectification and sexualisation of women’s body parts. The campaign aims to put an end to the censorship of female breasts as a step towards gender equality – it is not a crusade that exclusively advocates for women to bare their chests at any and all given times; rather, it seeks to strip society of its tendencies toward the sexualization of the female upper body.”

The only difference between a man’s nipples and a woman’s breasts is that the latter is objectified. Some call it nudity, but nudity doesn’t have to be sexualized. Why are we so afraid of it? Why should we have these principles dictate what we should and should not wear?

There’s no such thing as a guideline on how femininity should be like and we’re all slowly trying to realise it. We all must be respected regardless of whatever choices we make.

About the author: Teejay is a communications major, a music enthusiast and a frustrated journalist. Her views on Feminism are largely influenced by pop culture and her deep admiration for Lena Dunham and her work. Her ultimate dream by the time she turns 40 is to live in a world where people treat each other as human beings without any basis on what’s in between their legs.


When to speak out

Written by Aparna Menon, Change Maker

aparna2My first month of work, three years ago, was a traumatic one. After years of avoiding the shipping career, I inevitably ended up signing up for it due to financial pressures. While I can never relay in full detail the turbulent weeks of my first experience in the workforce, one incident stands out.

My supervisor was assigned to show me the ropes in the beginning. While I cannot deny his helpfulness, I also cannot condone his views. As weeks progressed, I started to learn more about him, mostly because he openly expressed his opinions. I appreciate candidness and honesty, and so this was refreshing. I listened with intrigue as he explained my job and responsibilities. Then one day he turned to me and told me that women should never be in power. I was taken aback.

That afternoon I heard more comments, such as ‘women cannot understand as much as men can’, ‘women should never be in politics’ and ‘men should protect women because they are weak and insecure’. Those comments were abhorrent and I felt I couldn’t respond as much as I wanted to. I listened in captivation and I interjected feebly with quiet comments about feminism and examples of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a female leader in politics.

aparna2My supervisor had three daughters. I was heartbroken to realise that these girls would be raised with the belief that they could not achieve their dreams because of the stigma attached to being a woman.

I used to believe that women’s rights (or women’s empowerment) was a redundant topic, something not worth mentioning. This is not because I disagreed with it, but because I assumed that equality of men and women had already been achieved, at least in the developed world. In the developed world where children are supposedly educated to understand that regardless of race, gender or religion, they are all human beings and should be treated as such. I now realise how much more work still needs to be done.

How can we achieve equality? Educate yourself and educate the people around you. We cannot progress, learn, impact and effect change unless we ourselves have the knowledge. If you find yourself in a situation in which you believe that a woman is unjustly viewed or denied privileges, your education is the tool that can make a difference. Three years ago, my fear of my career being taken away from me stopped me from speaking out. I will make sure that it does not happen again.

aparna3About the author: Aparna is a passionate advocate of international development and education.  She hopes to pursue it full-time. She believes writing is one outlet to express opinions on these topics and highlight the issues of today.


GE2015: Gender Equality ‘Fails’

Written by Sumithri Venketasubramanian, Change Maker

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 2.44.18 pmIf you have been following the coverage on Singapore’s General Elections this year, you’ll find that some things don’t sit well, if at all, on the spectrum of gender equality.

For one, the visibility of women as leaders is low in most fields, and politics is no exception. Some might wonder why it’s important to have gender representation – men can take into account women’s views, can’t they? Sure, but not with as much detail and understanding, because they haven’t had the same experiences.

The concerns with regard to issues that tend to affect women more (such as caregiving, single-parent families, and job security) can only be comprehensively addressed if women themselves are able to make those decisions, because they’ll be able to relate to and critically analyse the situation in accordance to their own experiences and views. Women’s voice in parliament should come from, well, women.

Representation of women in politics

Unfortunately, the way that we talk about women who do get into politics does no justice to their effort and service. You may be familiar with the recent incident where National Solidarity Party candidate for MacPherson Single-Member Constituency, Mr Cheo Chai Chen, claimed that People’s Action Party rival, Ms Tin Pei Ling’s motherhood was a “weakness”. Comments like this sends the message that politics is not for mothers, or women at all for that matter.

Female candidates and members of parliament are constantly under scrutiny by the media for matters that have nothing to do with their contributions to Singaporean politics. They’re asked why they’re not married, and if they have any plans to do so. Their family-work balance is questioned significantly more than their male counterparts. They’re seen as mothers, daughters, sisters who happen to be politicians, rather than politicians who happen to be women. 

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 2.45.12 pmThis treatment of women in the media isn’t exclusive to the field of politics. We see it everywhere, from an established businesswoman (who’s also in politics) being introduced as a “mother-of-two” to sportswomen’s “wardrobe malfunctions” being broadcast to the world in a matter of seconds after they happen. These subtly sexist questions directed at female politicians imply that politics is not for women, unless they want to be questioned about their previous “unprofessional” jobs and/or actions, appearance and personal choices. This unhealthy obsession which the media seems to have only builds on gender roles and stereotypes that we’re hoping to rid our society of.

Politicians are public figures. When international conferences are held, they represent our people. When problems arise, they’re the ones who come forward in an effort to help the situation. When Singaporeans think of national leaders, they see them. By having such few women in the government and within political parties, it sends the message that politics is a men’s game and only a few lucky women might have the opportunity to play too. It propagates the notion of women having to behave “like men” in order to succeed. It says that men are the ultimate decision makers on the national scale, and women only have a small role in such an important task. It tells young girls that their brothers and male friends probably have a higher chance of being leaders in the future. (And it doesn’t really help that women – already rare in the political realm – are pitted against one another, courtesy of the media.) 

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 2.47.55 pmWhat changes do we want to see?

So, politics definitely needs a feminist overhaul. There needs to be significantly more effort on the part of political parties to include women among their candidates – AWARE recommends at least 30% of candidates to be women, for a start. Currently, the closest any party has come to this is the Singapore Democratic Party, at 27%. Some parties (ahem, the Singapore Democratic Alliance and the Singaporeans First Party) don’t even have any women among them. Some complain that there’s something of a “gender quota” – bordering on tokenism – when candidates are picked, but as mentioned, it is an important measure to give women their voice in parliament – at least until greater gender equality is seen in politics. (Image source)

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 2.46.48 pmThe media, which greatly influences the way that people are perceived, should play their part and actively shift the conversation away from unrelated matters back to the equally-exciting game that these women are playing: politics. There is so much that women have to offer in politics; perspectives that may have never been considered will start getting recognised in parliament and by the public, potentially changing the political atmosphere of Singapore. And seeing as newspapers, television and online news websites provide coverage of politics and news, they’re instrumental in making a difference in the way that female politicians – and women’s issues – are perceived.

Women in Singapore politics have come a long way from being practically non-existent decades ago, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

About the Author: Sumithri is a passive-aggressive activist who enjoys writing lengthy blog posts on some of the many issues faced in the world. She’s still trying to figure out which of the many social injustices to dedicate her life fighting against, but whatever it is, will contribute the best she can.


Boys will be boys: Five perspectives on manhood

Written by Change Makers, as part of our “What does being a man mean to you?” blog series. Submit your responses to [email protected]!

4ee5c8fa73c9ed50e09669eda7481766When I was younger, my parents used to tell me to stop crying whenever I cried, the sole reason being that I was a boy. At my kindergarten, children were treated differently based on gender. Even at that age, I felt a distinct sense of unease. Being a child who was not as raucous and outgoing as most other boys, I often felt like I did not belong. In one incident that I remember, I wore my sister’s old shoes to school as my usual pair was damaged. The shoes was mostly white, but had a pink lining. Almost immediately, a boy inquired about the reason for my wearing “pink-coloured shoes”.

I was also often told that I had to get a well-paying job because I would be a man in the future. I’m sure most people have had similar experiences being judged by others. Ironically, it is often family that enforces gender norms most harshly, causing conflict and anguish.

Why can’t people, regardless of gender, be looked upon as what they are – people?

In my view, things are improving. But there is still a lot to be done, and it starts with every single person.

– Chin Jia Yi

2086479_manliness_jpeg44eb71191e545dedf378e9a7121db56cHow many times have you ever been told to “be a man” or to “man up”? Being a man in today’s society entails being strong, independent and successful. Being a man to me has always simply been being of the male sex but to some it means so much more. People expect men to be leaders. Advertisements everywhere teach us from a very young age what the ‘ideal man’ should look like. Pictures of muscled men with six-pack abs are all too common on fashion magazines and billboards. An ideal man has defined muscles and rugged good looks.

However, the reality remains that some men are unable to conform to these expectations. There is more to being a man than being strong, dominant and emotionless. I have experienced first-hand many of my peers trying to fit in, constantly feeling insecure about themselves. Why do we have to behave and look just like everyone else?

– Aahan Gopinath Achar 

I do not try to change what other people think of me regarding my gender. I do not care unless it negatively affects my relationships with others, nor do I try to preach my views every time someone made an offhand remark. It is not worth the effort and usually fails anyway, so it is not worth the trouble. But if someone else feels upset because of an inappropriate comment, I will readily speak up against gender stereotyping and take a stand.

Nguyen Nhat Minh

On countless occasions, I am told to “man up”, to not show weakness. I think people who say that are hypocrites who twist the truth of manhood to fit their warped idea of who they think a man should be. There is no single definition of man no matter how hard we think, agonize and struggle over this abstract concept. So then why do we continue to impose these gender roles on others?

– Joshua Sum

There is societal pressure for men to put on a strong front in spite of hardship, reinforcing a pretty but false picture where men are more rational than women simply because they are men. I still remember when crying in school was looked down upon, since “boys don’t cry”. When men show vulnerability among their peers, they are subject to judgment. I just happen to be male. If expressing human emotion is only natural, why is there a double standard?

– Muhammad Syazwan Bin Ramli


“Those are the real problems.”

Written by Kimberly Jow, Change Maker

A common, almost ubiquitous comment in my social circle with reference to talks about feminism are stories about women in other countries who face brutal violence, followed by the words, “those are the real problems”, with the word “real” expertly italicised in real life.

First World Feminism.jpegI understand where this is coming from. They acknowledge the problems faced by other women in countries who seem to “need it more”, and apparently nobly recognises their privilege. The small problems we face here, rape threats on Twitter, stereotypes – they don’t hold a candle to the many girls being forced into child marriages, or the honor killing of women. What about those problems? Those are the real problems.

This “those are the real problems” argument, aside from the time taken to type it, is troublesome in and of itself. First off, it is dismissive of the problems faced by women in a first-world society. That argument essentially says that certain problems don’t matter because they are not all of the same magnitude.

Why do women have to have a constant fear of death before their concerns can be validated? Problems faced by women in the first-world continue to remain relevant. The oppressive structure does not get a free pass for its actions just because other people have it worse. Anyone using the hashtag “#FirstWorldProblems” have perhaps felt silly for complaining about their daily minor inconveniences, but there is generally no expectation for them to act like they suffer the same as those, for example, below the poverty line. One may expect them to feel empathy and help out, but not live according to the standards of everyone who has had it worse than they have.

Secondly, the “those are the real problems (TATRP, for the tired typist)” argument, derails the fight for equality in first-world societies, which is a problematic move.

For many people of my social circle, the “TATRP” argument and those of its ilk are commonly used to rebut discussions of feminism. The purpose appears to be to guilt trip women into not speaking out about their struggles. Even if it were unintended, the fact remains that a conversation like this will either be derailed or avoided. This affects everyone’s ability to understand the experiences of each gender, thus impeding our progress towards equality.

Tank top VS acidAt the risk of simplifying the issue, I would appeal to the users of the “TATRP” argument to stop. By using victims of violence to silence feminists, you are using real people, with real experiences and emotions as a tool, an object to get your way. They may not directly experience your flippant cruelty, but it shuts down any form of viable discussion with members of your own society. I understand that it may not have been your intent, but I would ask that you hesitate before you adopt a “TATRP” tone; devaluing one’s struggles does not help alleviate the other.

Such comments could have been said to express helplessness at the many anti-women outages all over the world. In which case I would recommend a donation at, and encourage you to rest assured that we can still help to improve the world.

About the Author: Kimberly is a somewhat ambitious NUS undergraduate who has always dreamed of writing her own About the Author section. She retains much hope for eventual equality, and is willing to fight the currents to get there.


A platform of sexism

Anonymous blog post

A while ago, I found out the most horrifying thing about a close friend of mine. He was using the fact that I was a legal adult but still able to pull off a schoolgirl look to feed his fetishes. We agreed to have a shoot and at that time, I thought it was only for artistic and photographic purposes.

That was, until my friends showed me a forum where this close friend of mine is a member. What I read in the forum filled me with utter horror.

There is a thread in the forum where men discuss their fetish for various secondary school uniforms in Singapore. They were posting pictures of them ejaculating on the uniforms, asking for suggestions on which school uniform they should cum on next and cheering each other on. This close friend of mine also posted some pictures of him ejaculating on several secondary school uniforms. The worst thing was that some users shared the photos of the girls whose uniforms they had ejaculated on. Those girls are just secondary school girls!

This forum is none other than Sammyboy Forum.

A quick glance at the rest of the forum made me understand why the moderators did not do anything about the thread. Sammyboy Forum is a place where discussion about any type of fetish and any topic of sexual nature is acceptable, regardless of how non-consensual the activity or hateful the discussion. There is even a place for users to share uncensored photos of girls they had sex or nude photoshoots with, with or without their consent. Users also share tips about how to sexually groom a girl into agreeing to take nude photoshoots.

Why is such a forum allowed to exist? A forum where women are nothing but sexual objects to satisfy the fetishes of the users. A forum where women are trophies and prizes in the eyes of those users.

I understand that we need a venue to share and discuss sexual fantasies because sexual freedom is important in our conservative culture. But there should be limits to that. Every party involved should be consenting. Every party involved should be treated as a person with feelings and needs, instead of being objectified as a fetish object. What would the impact be on a young person who happened to stumble upon this forum? What would they believe to be the norm with regards to sex and women?

I hope that something can be done about this forum, and its contents to be moderated. Sexual freedom should be encouraged in Singapore, but learning to respect a person and understand consent is important as well.


The top two man-made myths debunked!


Written by Nicole Seah, Change Maker, as part of our “What does being a man mean to you?” blog series. Submit your responses to [email protected]!

  • Boys can’t <insert misconception here> like girls can.

Did you know that gender-neutral clothing was popular up to the mid 1980s?

If that is the case, why are there so many associations between colour and gender and sexuality? When did the colour blue become associated with manliness and when did the color pink begin to represent femininity? Children and parents alike are bombarded with this pervasive and unsettling idea that a colour can represent a gender or someone’s identity.

So what if boys want to wear pink dresses? I say let them! Let the children of our generation learn how to express themselves. If your little boy chooses to wear a dress and play with a Barbie doll and you are horrified by this idea, try to think logically about what these icons symbolise. Does this child understand the connotations of wearing pink and the public disapproval of donning a skirt as a boy, or is it just your own opinion that has been built into you from years of indoctrination?

Rather than concerning ourselves with silly speculations about what colour means, society should be more concerned about bringing children up to be a mature, compassionate adults. Does it really matter what they wear if they have kind souls and big hearts? If society has stooped so low to think that children must conform to gender norms, something is clearly wrong. Why does a boy wanting to wear a pink shirt bother some parents more than the violence associated with the guns he plays with? Isn’t it funny that in the eyes of so many, blue and pink aren’t simply blue and pink? They’re guns and ponies; trucks and frills.

  • Men don’t cry and other fascinating characteristics

An archetypal masculine man does not cry! He does not shed a drop of emotion onto his gleaming torso of pure muscle. Brooding, he punches a wall, because violence in the face of emotional distress is more ‘manly’ than crying.

Hopefully that sarcasm wasn’t wasted on you. I’ve never heard of a sillier idea than that men cannot be emotional. Being sad and being overtly happy are all ‘danger zones’ on the masculinity scale. Fathers teach their sons to mask their feelings in times of extreme grief. Seeking relief from one’s emotions is a definite no-no when you are a man, even if it is only natural to do so.

More recently, a few psychological studies such as the ‘androgyny study’ were done to show that feminine and masculine characteristics are not polar opposites, rather, characteristics that should work together. One who has an equal amount of both, are considered psychologically androgynous. For example, a male doctor is both compassionate and acts like a leader in their field, a leading woman engineer is both analytical and could also be soft spoken! A fact that I read was that androgynous people tend to be happier and more successful.

However, this androgyny study also shows us how gender is stereotyped and ridiculed in our society, and shows us that characteristics shouldn’t be gendered; rather they should be valued for what they are. Being gentle is a great characteristic for both men and women: so why is it that they are stereotyped as being ‘womanly’? An androgynous person has roughly an equal amount of characteristics associated with each gender, and this tends to be a good balance!

So what does ‘being a man’ mean to me? Well, nothing much really. Man or woman, there is no ‘battle of the sexes’. There should be no preconception of what being a man should mean at all!


A Change Maker’s perspective on change

Written by Jolanda Nava, Change Maker

Daryl Yang is a 22-year-old enrolled in the Yale-NUS/NUS Law Double Degree Programme. He is also the President of Yale-NUS’ Gender & Sexuality Alliance. I decided to interview him to find out what he thinks about change and change-making.

10847393_673306239461821_5085795308324159513_oWhat do you think are some of the problems that you see with gender around you?

Generally there is a lack of conversation and understanding of this very complex idea of gender. As a result, most people have very fixed ideas about what a boy or a girl should be and this leads to people who don’t fit into these boxes to be considered deviants, “problems” that need to be fixed.

I also find that gender in our society is defined by ideas of family and parenthood, in part because of the national campaign to increase birthrates. If you’re a woman, your “goal” should be to find a husband and have children; if you’re a man, you should be a breadwinner and take care of your household. This creates unfair and unrealistic expectations. I have friends who cannot accept that their girlfriends earn more than them, because of this idea that the man should be the breadwinner. Others feel like they have to keep up with this “I’m strong, I don’t have feelings” persona because they think that is what it means to be a man.

How then, do you start change?

“Change” is a big word and sometimes it feels scary to think about changing society. But I believe it is important we recognize that change does not happen quickly or overnight. It is going to take a long time before we can see the change we are advocating for, but we have to start somewhere, and spreading ideas is a good place to start from.

I think change starts with small things, like challenging stereotypes in your casual conversations with friends or just changing the language you use. It is about asking questions that can start a deeper reflection. When your friend tells you he doesn’t think he can accept it if his future wife earns more than him, ask them why they think so. Get them to think about where those ideas come from. It is about not saying things like “man up” or “don’t be such a girl”, because they perpetuate and reinforce negative stereotypes about what it means to be a guy or a girl.

We cannot be trapped by the idea that things have to change now, or we are going to feel discouraged and start thinking it is a lost battle. But every one of us can do small things to push a little, and we should recognize that each of us can only play a small yet important part. You have to put things into perspective.

Do you think that change starts with people, or with laws?

I think legal and social change have an interactive relationship. It is hard to say whether one should come before the other because there are pros and cons to either of them coming first. But they are not mutually exclusive, they should go hand in hand.

Different members of the community should advocate change in different areas of the community and at different levels. Personally, I am not yet able to advocate for legal change [Daryl is currently enrolled in the double degree of Liberal Arts + Law] but what I can do is influence the community and people around me.

G Spot LogoWhat do you do, personally, to start change?

I try to make myself someone that people can approach and talk to about these things. I want to achieve change through dialogue and conversations, so I try to be someone people can reach out to; I try to create a place around me where people can feel safe.

Sometimes we get angry when we face people that are ignorant or negative or pessimistic, and we respond in a way that does more harm than good. I think it is extremely important to develop the ability to put the anger aside and respond in a more helpful way. Shouting at someone will not help, we have to think about the kind of support we offer each other when we advocate change. The important question is: how are we helping the person in front of us to change?

Often we feel trapped within these social structures. Your friend might agree with you that what they are experiencing comes from social expectations, but they are still stuck in that position and they might find it impossible to escape. So it is important to help creating an environment that allows people to feel comfortable about themselves and to find a way out.

Is there an example of small changes that you have witnessed?

Two semesters ago we hosted a panel on gender, it was only a conversation about it. Yet, it led some people in the audience decide that they wanted to do something for the transgender community, which lead to a small project aimed at fundraising and raising awareness. Even if the panel was just people sharing their experiences, the ripple effects were many.

Most importantly, I think when you do something, no matter how small, it will help encourage and inspire people to do something too.

About the author: Jolanda is a university students learning about international relations and having fun with programming classes. She not-so-secretly enjoys challenging gender stereotypes and when she grows up she wants to be a superhero.


What Makes a Man

Written by Leow Yangfa, Change Maker, as part of our “What does being a man mean to you?” blog series. Submit your responses to [email protected]!

Being a son means I am grateful for my parents’ loving support, good health and continued presence. Being a brother means I am fortunate enough to have two women with whom I will have life-long relationships. Being a nephew means I have aunts and uncles who are there to remind me I’m part of a larger family. Being an uncle means I have relationships with five very different young women whom I will risk my life to protect.

Being of Chinese-Hakka-Peranakan heritage means I am connected to a long history of culture, language and traditions. Being a Singlish-speaking Singaporean means I can be uptight, eccentric, arrogant, kiasu, kiasee and patriotic, all at the same time.

Being gay means I have an awareness of what it means to be feared, hated, demonised…and different. Being a survivor of suicide and sexual assault means I know how it feels to be vulnerable.

Being vegetarian means I would like to practise kindness in my daily habits. Being an atheist means I only have this life to live. Being a social worker means I am self-aware and seek purpose in my life.

Being a man to me means….all of the above.

About the Author: Leow Yangfa is the Executive Director of Oogachaga, a community-based professional counselling, support & personal development organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & questioning (LGBTQ) individuals, couples & families.


Should I intervene?

by Sumithri Venketasubramanian, Change Maker

The recent viral video of the abuse of an elderly woman has brought to light something that many of us have probably experienced before: what do I do as a bystander in light of abuse?

When the victims of abuse are those close to us – our friends, family members and neighbours – we might feel compelled to intervene, but might also not know how to. After all, there are so many questions that could affect how we react: ‘It could just be a “family matter”, should I get involved?’ ‘What if by stepping in, I put the victim’s safety at further risk?’ ‘How do I ensure that I won’t get hurt in the process?’

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 4.20.13 pmAnd of course, it’s always important to assess the situation before taking action. Jumping in, or making decisions on behalf of the victim(s), without weighing the pros and cons of our options may end up putting ourselves or others in danger.

Abuse can have many forms, including physical, psychological, sexual, financial and verbal. Some signs are unexplained wounds, isolation, repeated absence from work or school, restlessness, anxiety and an inability to complete tasks. Due to the traumatic nature of abuse, it’s important to remain supportive and patient. Just being there for the victim and assuring them that they’re not at fault can be immensely helpful. Letting them know that you can be trusted and will support them with whatever they choose to do may encourage them to cope with their emotions better.

Ask them what they would like to do, and respect their decision. In many cases, the perpetrator is known to the victim, and it may not be easy to leave their homes in cases of domestic, child or elder abuse, for example. While it may seem ‘right’ to intervene and remove the affected from the abusive environment, doing so without their full consent may cause distrust within your relationship, which may not really aid the situation.

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 4.19.52 pmMoreover, financial dependence and emotional attachment may also affect the decision to leave, move out or call the police. To a third-party, an abusive situation may seem evident, but to those involved, the lines may be blurred. Using words like “abuse” may be shocking to the victim, because they may not have viewed it as such. Instead, provide resources that may help, such as helplines, counselling services, nearby police offices, family service centres or help centres. (Some useful helplines can be found here.) Should they choose to report the case or seek help services, offering to go with them can help them feel safer in such an environment.

Should you suspect violence within a neighbour’s/friend’s/relative’s home, calling the police is an option that you can consider. The safety of those involved is of utmost importance. However, note the potential risks associated with doing so and decide accordingly. Generally, even after a report has been made, the perpetrator may not be removed from their home until sufficient evidence proving that they’ve caused harm has been produced. Should it come to the attention of the abuser that the abuse has been reported, the situation might escalate and the victim may be put in further danger. Evaluate the situation carefully. For the most part, though, calling the police is the right thing to do, and not doing anything at all could be worse than ‘interfering’.

Saying stuff like “I told you so” or “why didn’t you leave years ago” doesn’t help anybody; it may even cause them to feel guilty about their experience. Dealing with abuse is very difficult, and the best that we can do is to provide support and encouragement to our friends, family members or neighbours as they recover from what they’ve been though.

About the Author: Sumithri is a passive-aggressive activist who enjoys writing lengthy blog posts on some of the many issues faced in the world. She’s still trying to figure out which of the many social injustices to dedicate her life fighting against, but whatever it is, will contribute the best she can.