“I saw my dad hit my mum. It changed my life forever”

Singaporean filmmaker Ng Yiqin’s latest movie deals with family violence in Singapore, the issue of toxic masculinity, and its impact on children…

“Do we hurt the ones we love? Will I be like him?” wonders Andy, after he sees his dad hit his mum…

Singaporean filmmaker Ng Yiqin recently directed a short film for Viddsee, a Singapore-based platform that specialises in short premium content. The short film, ‘Something I Wanted To Ask’ deals with family violence in Singapore, the issue of toxic masculinity, and its impact on children.

In the film, a teenager struggles to understand the relationship between his abusive father and his mother, while coming to grips with what it really means to be a man.

Here are some disturbing stats on violence against women in Singapore:

  • 1 in 10 women in Singapore experience lifetime physical violence by a male (International Violence Against Women Survey, 2010)
  • 71.7% of women abused by partners are not likely to make a police report (International Violence Against Women Survey, 2010).
  • 83.0% of the respondents believe that women should stay in violent relationships under some circumstances (For example, if they have children).

We asked filmmaker Ng Yiqin more about ‘Something I Wanted To Ask’, why she chose to make it, and on whether films can influence society to change for the better. Read on.

The day I saw my dad hit my mum…

theAsianparent: What was the inspiration behind making ‘Something I Wanted To Ask’?

Ng Yiqin: It started as a creative exercise – I was excited to write a violent drama due to the novelty of it. However, the characters I first wrote were unrealistic and stereotypical; I had to research more.

I was quite surprised by how easy it was to access persons who experienced domestic abuse. The prevalence of it troubled me so I tried my best to write a more layered story through the perspective of a teenage boy.

PHOTO: SCREENGRAB ‘Something I Wanted To Ask’

As a young person, his views would be mostly unformed and fluid, so it would be a great starting point to look at very polarising issues of what it means to be a man and how it affects the people around him.

theAsianparent: How do you think domestic violence affects kids?

Ng Yiqin: If kids grow up knowing their parents hit or verbally abuse each other, violence and lack of respect is normalised. In the film, I want to discuss the dangers of normalised violence and how it affects kids.

PHOTO: SCREENGRAB ‘Something I Wanted To Ask’

theAsianparent: What was the research that went into the making of this movie?

Ng Yiqin: I wanted to understand the relationship dynamics between power and balance, so I reached out to acquaintances who had lived experience of domestic violence and spoke at length about the motivations and struggles of their relationship. I was first surprised at how easy it was to access such persons.

There was a memorable story about a lady who stayed in a harrowing relationship for ten years, and it was surprising to me that victims continue to stay in abusive relationships. Through further conversations I tried to understand these struggles and found that I dived into a very complex web.

My short film is thus only a very tiny peek at the complexities of such relationships.

theAsianparent: Can films influence society to change for the better?

Ng Yiqin: Definitely. Film as art is a mirror to our humanity and it can spark conversations about who we are and where we are headed towards.

Even though films are often subjective, we can use these insights as a starting point to change.

theAsianparent: In the movie, the husband is seen raging with anger when he gets to know that his wife took a decision without consulting him. What is your opinion about patriarchal society and toxic masculinity?

Ng Yiqin: Toxicity comes in all shapes and sizes and the film only touches on a small aspect of this.

In the film, I wanted to draw parallels between the bullies in the locker room and the bully at home and signal how our environments shape us. If we are not aware, we might eventually succumb to what our environment dictates.

PHOTO: SCREENGRAB ‘Something I Wanted To Ask’

theAsianparent: “Will I be like him when I grow up?” The son asks. How do you feel dads influence their sons?

Ng Yiqin: In the film, the father (Ernest) actually holds a degree of respect and influence in Andy’s eyes despite their disagreements on issues.

Similarly, Andy still looks up to him and hungers for the father-son closeness even till the end of the film.

theAsianparent: How was your own childhood and interaction with your father like?

Ng Yiqin: My dad felt like one of the more progressive fathers around as he acknowledges that my mother did not have as many opportunities as she deserved while growing up. He makes sure that we know this and we appreciate what she has done for our family.

As a kid, I developed a love for reading and writing as I fondly remember the books gifted to me by my father.

He is a father who shows his love through actions rather than words, so when my mother protested that my 20-year-old self was too young to be backpacking around, he encouraged me and even snuck me more pocket money!

PHOTO: SCREENGRAB ‘Something I Wanted To Ask’

theAsianparent: What message would you like to convey through ‘Something I Wanted To Ask’?

Ng Yiqin: I’ve heard people throw words like ‘be a man’, ‘man up’, ‘don’t be a sissy’ and I’m guilty of that too. So, what does it really mean to be a man? Who gets to decide?

There are so many facets to identity and I’ve only scratched the surface. If we teach our kids that it’s ok to use derogatory words, to consume porn that objectifies women, to look the other way when offensive statements are veiled as jokes, maybe it’s not that surprising that bullying and domestic violence are so prevalent.

PHOTO: SCREENGRAB ‘Something I Wanted To Ask’

There are a thousand questions and that’s the beauty of film. Life is not just black and white right?

There’s so much in between that we can dive in and explore. For example, is Mum a victim? How can she be a victim if she seems to be so verbally aggressive in their quarrels?

Then again, maybe if she bit her tongue, she wouldn’t be in this state? It allows us to interpret the same scene in so many ways and through Andy’s questions, we all can hold a mirror to ourselves and ask if we have been a part of the problem or the solution.

Thank youNg Yiqin for taking the time out for this interview.

Mums and dads, do catch ‘Something I Wanted To Ask’ here.

Helplines for dealing with family violence in Singapore

Meanwhile, here are some things you can do if you find yourself in an abusive relationship:

1.  Seek help immediately

For immediate advice or help, call:

  • Police – 999
  • AWARE Helpline – 1800 777 5555 (Mon–Fri, 3 pm– 9.30 pm)

In the event that a life is in danger, call the Police at 999 immediately.

2.  See the doctor

  • Immediately visit the doctor in case of serious physical injuries.
  • Remember to tell your doctor the truth
  • Do remember that your personal information is secure. The law ensures that medical reports are private.
  • If you do experience abuse and find it a serious issue, you will still find visiting a doctor beneficial. A doctor’s medical report can help you if decide to apply for a Personal Protection Order (PPO).
  • Retain your receipt for the medical services as evidence.

3. Lodge a Police Report

  • Lodging a police report is beneficial even if you don’t want to take legal action, as police reports  may help if you do apply for legal protection.
  • To start, visit a police service counter – any will do – including neighbourhood police posts.
  • Photocopy the police report so that you can refer to it later.
  • Keep check of eyewitness accounts, texts, emails or recordings that could possible indicate forms of harassment that isn’t so obvious, such as emotional abuse or physical abuse.

4. Seek Counsellors or Other Forms of Support

  • If you need someone to talk to, you can always visit a counsellor who can guide you better.
  • Counselling may also help aggressors admit that they’re wrong and change for the better.
  • Here’s a list of organisations which provide counselling services:

Please call ComCare on 1800 222 0000 to be connected to the nearest centre.

These Family Service Centres specialise in counselling related to family violence:

5. Stay in a Crisis Shelter

  • If you find yourself having no way out, or no other person to turn to, a crisis shelter is your last resort.
  • For Crisis Shelter admission, you need a referral from:
    • Police
    • Any Family Service Center or hospital social workers
  • Note that you can stay in a crisis shelter home for no longer than three months.

6. Apply for a Personal Protection Order

The following parties can apply for a Protection Order if they are facing family violence

  • spouse or former spouse
  • a child, including adopted and step children
  • father, mother, in-laws or siblings of the offender
  • any other relative or a person who is unable to look after himself or herself, who in the opinion of the court should be regarded as a member

In Singapore, a PPO can be applied for in the Family Court in person or through a Family Lawyer for ease and peace of mind. Protection Orders are not available to protect parties in non-marital intimate relationships.

In the event that a life is in danger, call the Police at 999 immediately.

Also READ: Husband arrested for 3-hour-long assault on wife as toddler son watches

Got a parenting concern? Read articles or ask away and get instant answers on our app. Download theAsianparent Community on iOS or Android now!

This article has been republished with permission from theAsianparent.

Written by: Jaya