Survey: More Than 50% Of Malaysians Believe Domestic Violence Is A Normal Stress Reaction

The Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) has revealed some concerning findings about public attitudes and perceptions towards violence against women in the country.

Cover image via New Straits Times & Miera Zulyana/Malay Mail

Subscribe to our Telegram channel for our latest stories and breaking news.

Malaysians have a fairly good understanding of what violence against women is. However, many still believe that there are circumstances for which that violence is acceptable.

The Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) has revealed some concerning initial findings from a survey they conducted titled 'Malaysian Public Attitudes and Perceptions Towards Violence Against Women (VAW)'.

The survey involved 1,000 Malaysian respondents, and the rights group said it is the first large-scale, nationally-representative study of the attitudes and perceptions towards VAW in the country.

Although the survey results demonstrate that overall, Malaysians know the physical and also non-physical forms of violence, it also found that many still undermine the complexity of the abuse.

Some findings show:
– More than half of Malaysians (53.3%) believe that domestic violence is a normal reaction of stress or frustration.
– 43% of respondents believe that a woman can make a man so angry that he hits her when he does not mean to.
– One third (30%) believe that women who flirt often are to blame for causing their partners to hit them out of jealousy.
– 26.5% of Malaysians believe that domestic violence is forgivable, if the perpetrator is so angry that they lose control.

The survey also revealed that only half of Malaysians support gender equality (46.3%) and oppose violence-endorsing attitudes (52.7%)

Violence-endorsing attitudes are loosely defined as attitudes that justify, excuse, minimise VAW, or blame survivors for the violence perpetrated against them.

So while Malaysians can identify the violence in issues surrounding sexual harassment and assault, rape, and child marriage, many exhibit attitudes that dismiss a victim's experience.

For example, the survey found that 37.1% of respondents believe that it is not as hard to leave an abusive relationship, and 44.9% believe that women who stay with their abusive partners are also responsible for the ongoing abuse.

A high percentage of Malaysians also still believe antiquated rape myths, which WAO said is a worrying finding as it further reflects public support towards victim-blaming practices.

They found that:
– 83.4% believe that rape happens because of men's uncontrollable sexual desires.
– 51.3% of respondents believe that rape happens because of how women dress.

On a more positive note, Malaysians strongly oppose child marriage

Survey results indicated that 70.3% of respondents do not agree with child marriage under any and all circumstances.

Only approximately one tenth of Malaysians explicitly support child marriage, with the greatest support coming from older men aged 55 years and above.

Additionally, only a small percent of Malaysians demonstrated less knowledge towards cyber-harassment, stalking, and controlling behaviour.

11% of survey respondents do not consider preventing their partners from seeing their family or friends, or denying them access to finances, as forms of domestic violence.

A participant holding a placard at the Kuala Lumpur Women’s March in March 2020.

Image via Miera Zulyana/Malay Mail

Based on their findings, WAO has called on the government to help come up with a comprehensive prevention strategy to tackle VAW in Malaysia

The group listed nine recommendations in their report, which included increasing public understanding, actively challenging and changing messages that subtly sustain VAW, training frontline government officers to deal with violence-endorsing attitudes, and using political will to combat child marriages and female genital mutilations.

They also hope the government will continue conducting public attitude surveys towards VAW like theirs every few years to track the progression and regression of Malaysian attitudes.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

If you or anyone you know may be at risk of domestic violence, please call these Malaysian hotlines:

Contact: +603-30008858
SMS/WhatsApp: +6018-9888058
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Weekdays (9.30am - 4.30pm)
Contact: +603-78770224
WhatsApp: +6016-2284221 | +6016-2374221
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Weekdays (9am - 5pm)
Contact: +604-2280342 | +604-3988340
WhatsApp: +6011-31084001 | +6016-4390698
Email: [email protected] 
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Contact: 15999
WhatsApp: +6019-2615999
Email: [email protected]
Website | Facebook 

Weekdays (8am - 10pm)
Contact: +6012-8123424
WhatsApp: +6012-8123424
Email: [email protected] 
Facebook | Twitter 

Daily (12pm - 12am)
Contact: 1800-18-2327

Domestic violence against women and girls increased during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Last year, a study revealed disturbing insights about Malaysian women's awareness on harassment in the workplace:

The culture of dismissing or blaming women and victims for the violence perpetrated against them is still prevalent in Malaysia:

You may be interested in: