Today we have the huge privilege of having Ms. Bharathi Manogaran, PAVE’s senior social worker with us! She will be talking to us about the importance of safe spaces in romantic relationships.
PAVE is a voluntary welfare organization set up in 1999. It is also the first family violence specialist centre (FVSC) in Singapore. The vision of PAVE is to be the lead organisation in the provision and development of integrated services against interpersonal violence and to lead in the promotion of healthy relationships in the Singaporean society. Its mission is to promote a healthy community, free from violence through empowerment, collaboration and advocacy.
You can find out more about PAVE in the following video:
Enjoy the interview!
Krozz: Hello Ms. Bharathi Manogaran! Can you tell us more about PAVE and what you are currently doing?
Ms. Bharathi Manogaran: PAVE is the pioneer Family Violence Specialist Centre in Singapore, set up in 1999.
Our mission is to promote a healthy community, free from violence through empowerment, collaboration and advocacy. We work with survivors who have experienced family violence, people who use violence as well as children who grow up witnessing violence in their families.
I am a Senior Social Worker here, mainly working with the survivors as well as people who use violence. I also coordinate the Youth team to address the concerns of Dating Violence by doing Public Education and Outreach Events in this area.
Krozz: What are “safe spaces in relationships” and how can a person tell if he/she has safe spaces in his/her relationship?
Ms. Bharathi Manogaran: A “safe space” is where there is no power and control from one partner to another, and the couple enjoy an equal balanced power in the relationship.
For instance, one should be able to express their opinions freely and respectfully without having to consider the repercussions of speaking that way.
When there is fear or apprehension inhibiting one from speaking their mind freely, there appears to be no “safe space” in that relationship.
Hence, I would say healthy communication and mutual respect are the key ingredients for “safe spaces in relationships”.
Krozz: What are some appropriate boundaries one can draw to ensure that the relationship remains healthy?
Ms. Bharathi Manogaran: Respect is key. With respect, we also learn to accept each other’s individual likes, needs and space.
If you find that you are perpetually trying to conform to the likes and needs of your partner, that is not healthy.
Love should not make you feel suffocated. It is important to draw boundaries to ensure that you have your space, you can still go out without your partner and participate in activities that you enjoy.
Krozz: We understand that sometimes people already in toxic relationships cannot even tell that they are in one. Can you share with us three tell-tale signs that a gentleman/lady is in a toxic relationship?
Ms. Bharathi Manogaran:
- Your partner trying to control your activities or life by isolating you from your family/friends, justifying it by saying it is because he/she loves you and wants to spend all their time with you.
- Your partner insults, humiliates, call you names or even threatens you.
- Your partner forces/pressures you to engage in sexual activities saying if you truly love him/her, you would do it.
Krozz: Some people stay in toxic relationships because they feel a strong sense of responsibility/ loyalty towards the other person. What advice would you give to people who feel like that?
Ms. Bharathi Manogaran: Research shows that it takes an average of 7 years before a victim reaches out for help.
There can be a myriad of reasons as to why one chooses to stay on in a relationship. Love and hope (that the abuse will stop) may be one of them.
Another primary reason could be fear of partner’s reaction to a break–up. Many have alluded that they feel so trapped in the relationship because a mention of a break up might mean escalating the toxicity from their partner.
It is important to know that we are not here to judge anyone’s decision about staying/leaving the toxic relationship. However, if you feel that you are stuck in a toxic relationship, I would urge that you speak to someone; a trusted peer, a family member or a social worker to assist you.
Knowledge is power and by breaking the silence and speaking to people, you will allow yourself various other avenues for help.
Krozz: Are there certain types of people who are more likely to be drawn to toxic relationships than other types?
Ms. Bharathi Manogaran: No. From the clientele we see, we note that it cuts across all sectors, be it ethnicity or socio-economic status.
Krozz: People who get into toxic relationships sometimes think it is their fault that they are in toxic relationships. Is it really?
Ms. Bharathi Manogaran: I would attribute this to the impact of the abuse.
They might hear this on a daily basis from their partner, that they are “useless”, “stupid”, “ugly”, “not good enough”.
When one hears such negative messages on a daily basis, they literally do start believing that it may be their doing that they are constantly fighting, that they are indeed stupid, ugly, not good enough for their partners.
Krozz: Domestic violence aside, couples are sometimes not happy in their relationship with each other due to the lack of open minded-ness and communication. Can you give three practical tips for couples who are dating on how to improve their communication skills with each other?
Ms. Bharathi Manogaran:
- Express yourself freely. In a healthy relationship, if something is bothering you, talk about it openly and freely instead of bottling it in. The more you bottle it, the worse the explosion will be when it happens.
- “I”, not “you”. Use “I” statements to express your opinions in a respectful manner, for eg “ I wish you had told me that you were being delayed so that I could have used my time for something else” instead of “you are always making me wait for you!”. The way it is delivered can make a world of a difference to the person at the receiving end.
- Agree to disagree. There can never be a relationship without any disagreements. However, it is important to find a way to compromise and see middle ground if you disagree on something. Conflict Solving takes time and patience. Allow each other the time to cool down as well.
As PAVE’s tag line goes, at the end of the day, “It’s about respect”. When you respect your partner, the communication will inherently be respectful too.
We hope you have enjoyed today’s interview on safe spaces in romantic relationships! Remember: If you ever feel threatened or unsafe in a romantic relationship, help is always a phone call away.
This feature on safe spaces is for the many people who have experienced violence in a romantic relationship. Violence is not just physical. Violence can manifest in emotional, psychological, sexual forms or even in the form of neglect.
Reach out when you feel unsafe. For more information, do visit PAVE’s website here.