Several hundred retail assistants across 71 Unity drugstores and pharmacies will be trained by next month to spot signs of family violence, to make it easier for victims and the community to report violence or seek help.

This is the next phase in an initiative by Unity to work with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) to strengthen community detection, having sent more than 40 of its pharmacists from its 42 pharmacies for training last November.

Ms Ang Sor Teng, general manager for health and wellness at Unity, which comes under NTUC FairPrice, said that the company is working with the MSF to look at having posters or brochures at its FairPrice supermarkets, where there is more footfall.

Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling visited Unity Pharmacy in VivoCity on March 11 and spoke to pharmacists who had undergone the training to detect signs of family violence.

“Pharmacists are one channel that we’re looking at because we are constantly looking for new outreach channels whereby they are our eyes and ears on the ground that victims of family violence have easy access to,” said Ms Sun.

She also shared some takeaways from a focus group discussion in January with those involved in tackling family violence and working with perpetrators, such as the need to take a close look at the underlying causes and reasons for the perpetrators’ use of violence.

For example, if a perpetrator is facing financial stress, the solution could be to provide more financial assistance or support, she said.

The participants proposed several ideas on how to improve rehabilitation for perpetrators of family violence, she said.

They noted that family violence was often correlated with factors including life stressors such as financial difficulties, unstable employment, marital conflicts, parenting and caregiving stress, breakdown in communication at home, and drug and alcohol addiction.

This was the second focus group discussion organised by the Taskforce on Family Violence. The first was held in August last year.

The participants called for a holistic approach to addressing family violence, such as by tackling other issues that perpetrators face that may lead to violence, including poor emotional regulation, insufficient financial literacy and conflict management skills.

They also suggested that perpetrators be encouraged to attend counselling and treatment sessions.

The pamphlet placed at the pharmacy counter at the Unity Pharmacy store at VivoCity. Credit: Gavin Foo/ST

Another idea suggested was to introduce targeted interventions to better address the challenges and needs of perpetrators through sharing of data or information between agencies which have contact with them – especially between government agencies and social service agencies.

Participants also said it was important to help perpetrators understand that what they have done is unacceptable, by building a common understanding of family violence, including what constitutes violent and non-acceptable behaviour among victims, perpetrators, family members, young children and communities.

“We do need to have different solutions to best address the underlying root causes of the perpetrators’ behaviour, but better conflict management and encouraging more harmonious family relationships are some of the fundamentals that regardless of situation we will try to promote,” added Ms Sun.

Family violence helplines

  • Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6445-0400
  • Heart @ Fei Yue Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6819-9170
  • Pave Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection: 6555-0390
  • Project StART: 6476-1482
  • Trans Safe Centre: 6449-9088
  • National Anti-Violence Helpline: 1800-777-0000

Text: Goh Yan Han/The Straits Times