What makes some people become bystanders when loved ones abuse their maids?



Psychologists like Dr Joseph Leong from Promises Healthcare pointed to a “power differential” where a maid abuser is usually the head of the household.

Other family members could thus be afraid of abusers turning their fists on them – or fear the consequences of being implicated if they report the abuse to the authorities, clinical psychologist Lysia Tan from the Mind What Matters consultancy told CNA.

Family members may also feel a sense of “loyalty” to the abuser, she added.

The psychologists also cited the familiar phenomenon of the bystander effect.

This refers to the reduced likelihood of someone intervening in an emergency situation, most likely a crime, when others are around.

A common example is when people stop at accident sites to take videos and photos, but do not help the victim.

Dr Annabelle Chow from Annabelle Psychology said this could be a factor in people standing by in situations of maid abuse.

“While we logically expect individuals to respond to others when they are in distress, it is often not the case,” she noted.

Dr Chow said a person might first assess if the abuse is serious enough to warrant their intervention, and if the onus is on them to intervene.

This depends on their – and the abuser’s – role in the family, as well as how they view the victim.

“It could be unlikely that a family member intervenes … if (the abuser’s) personality characteristics are dominating and commanding in nature,” said Dr Chow said. “Or if the victim is perceived to belong to a different, usually lower, class of persons.”


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