Update: A video of a young girl being slapped in an Ikea carpark sparked outrage earlier this month, and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said it has since acted to ensure the child’s safety.
“MSF has taken the appropriate steps to ensure the safety of the child,” said a ministry spokesman on Monday (Nov 19). “The case has also been referred to a child protection specialist centre to ensure the child’s well-being.”
The video was taken on Nov 5, and the MSF said to The New Paper on Nov 8 that the ministry and the police were investigating the incident.
In the clip, the girl, who looks to be of primary school age, is seen kneeling next to a white car in the carpark of Ikea Tampines.
A man, believed to be her father and standing beside a woman, points his finger at the girl, then swings back his arm and slaps her face.
The force of the impact makes her head snap back and she almost loses her balance.
A passer-by who was filming the incident from some distance away said he could hear the slap.
As the man walks away, the girl remains kneeling. He then turns back and berates her as the video ends.
The passer-by, who sent his video to citizen journalism portal Stomp, said: “I do not know what the man was upset about, but he was saying things like, ‘I love you but you cannot say these kind of things to me’ and ‘It’s no longer your mum’s place, it is my place’.
“I’m not sure if the woman in the video is the mother, but she seemed too scared to hold him off or do anything.”
The Stomper, who wanted to remain anonymous, added: “I stopped recording the video after I suspected that the man had noticed me.
“The man walked away after noticing that more people had started to gather.
“He shouldn’t embarrass his daughter in public places like this and scare other families with young children.”
Ikea confirmed that the incident occurred on its premises and that it has made a police report.
An Ikea spokesman told The New Paper: “From the images in the video, we can verify that it’s an Ikea carpark.
“This incident has been reported to the police and we will render any assistance they need in their investigation.”
A netizen who watched the video was concerned enough to report the incident to MSF.
Identifying himself as Richard on Stomp’s Facebook page, he wrote: “I have reported this to MSF for their investigation.”
He sought information on the man and his car so that he could forward it to MSF and asked the Stomper to send his uncensored video with details to MSF.
“If this man can behave this way in public, there is no telling what he has done in private,” he added.
An MSF spokesman told TNP on Thursday night that the ministry and police are looking into the matter.
MSF figures show that it investigated 894 cases of child abuse last year, of which 373 were for physical abuse.
Criminal lawyer Ravinderpal Singh told TNP the slap could be considered as child abuse.
And if the girl is deemed to be in danger, MSF’s Child Protective Service could step in, especially if the parties can be identified.
Child psychologist Evonne Lek said if the abuse is repeated, such behaviour can be deemed physical and emotional abuse, which could have a lasting impact on the child.
Ms Lek was concerned the girl remained still during the incident as it could mean that “this had happened before and she is used to it”.
Referring to online comments that this might have been a case of a parent just disciplining his child, psychologist Dr Carol Balhetchet said that regardless, there is no excuse for such behaviour.
“If it had been a grown man or woman kneeling in public and getting slapped, it would not be acceptable. So, why is it so with a child? It’s double standards.”
She agreed that such behaviour is abusive and it was unnatural for the child to not react.
Noting that parents must learn to manage their anger, Dr Balhetchet said: “No matter what the child did, it is the parent’s responsibility to demonstrate respect for the child if they want to be respected.”
A version of this article first appeared in The New Paper.
(Photo and videos: Stomp)