Secrets – A remote support community for victims of domestic violence

Design Challenge

#2: How might we encourage our community to support one another and look out for those who are socially isolated?

Project Description

The Circuit Breaker has put victims of domestic violence in a situation where they face increased likelihood of violence.

Our proposal is for a low-friction first step that might provide emotional respite, from helping give a name to what they are experiencing, knowing the specific experience of others like them out there, to safely expressing the overwhelm within them, to the empowerment of knowing how to act, depending on where they are in their individual ordeal of abuse.

The 3 tenets of our idea are: Acknowledge (their situation in relation to others), Articulate (their experiences) and Act (to receive and give help). We are not looking to advise, prescribe or intervene, but to hold a space for victims to open up – first to themselves, then to community and possibly, to action.

Criteria #1: Value

This idea will not address the needs of all; it is meant to catch the initial phases of recognising their situation and those not ready to reach out but need an outlet for their overwhelming experiences, especially because of restricted access to physical refuge.

Reading about specific experiences of others in their shoes puts a name to their situation, makes it just a bit more manageable, and helps them feel they are “not the only one (who’s stupid)”. They sometimes want their situation to be known, but need the assurance of safety and no questions asked.

Criteria #2: Inspiration

We propose a multi-level solution which matches a victim’s journey, from recognising their situation, to expressing themselves, seeking help when they are ready and finally closure. This empowers victims by returning choice and control to their journey, which is exactly what they lack in their situation.

This staged approach also enables us to learn and iterate, with modest investment.

The first level leverages Instagram. The generic medium and multitude of other non-related posts avoids raising alarm with the abuser. It also serves the added benefit of public awareness and education of this not well understood issue in Singapore.

Criteria #3: Impact

Most of the resources in Singapore require victims to first identify themselves as victims of abuse. However, some may be unaware, labelling abuse as “normal” or “deserving”.

In addition, victims often keep it a secret from people around them due to a sense of shame and learned helplessness. Specifically in Singapore, where the issue is stigmatized, there is a tendency to keep the problem within the family. By using a generic medium and maintaining anonymity, we allow victims to recognise and acknowledge their own situations and find courage in voicing out, especially during CB when their physical refuge is removed.

Criteria #4: Timeliness

We aim for MVP launch in 3-4 months, of the social media account and website, with stories gathered with help from partners. The MVP will quickly test victims’ and community’s receptiveness to the concept.

Continuous research will be conducted leveraging the MVP and partners’ network of victims, to map the ecosystem and journey of abuse to closure, and understand the levers for one to move along the journey. This will shape later stages of the idea to roll out a solution that moves the needle, and may include journaling, safety planning, participating in e-counselling or therapy sessions and seeking closure.

Criteria #5: Systems Thinking

During the CB, resources are limited to e-counselling and helplines, which victims may not be ready to use due to its official nature. Welfare organisations are also obliged to report abuse cases, a step which may be too extreme for some victims, isolating them even further. In addition, youths often only actively reach out when they have strong rapport with an adult.

We aim to provide an alternative avenue with lower barriers for victims to seek refuge as part of their day-to-day coping mechanism. Our idea fills the gap between non-action and formal assistance, and is complementary to existing efforts.