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Domestic abuse: A former child abuse victim speaks out
Publication Date : 21-08-2013
A young woman in Malaysia, who was previously abused by her father, speaks out about her troubled upbringing
The number of brutal domestic abuse cases reported in Malaysia by the media seems to be on the rise.
Most recently a young girl aged just five was viciously canned and is currently lying in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital.
Tragically, some victims die or are permanently damaged as a result of such traumatic abuse. Some manage to survive, leading a healthy successful life despite the scars.
We spoke to a young woman who was previously abused by her father speaks out about her troubled upbringing.
Kelly (not her real name), a fresh graduate with a diploma, said that their hot-tempered father brought her and her younger sister up, after their mother abandoned the family when they were young. His resentment over her depature may have been the spark that made their lives a living hell.
“We know that he could get very angry over small things, he would yell and say swear at me as if I did something wrong, but I did not,” said Kelly.
“Last year, he choked my sister in the neck until she couldn’t breathe. That time I wasn’t in the house, I was in college. When I came home, she was crying while he acted as if nothing had happened,” she said.
She said that after that incident she felt afraid to leave her sister at home with their father. “Every time I left the house I felt very scared.”
Kelly was also victim to her father’s physical abuse. In January this year, her father beat her with an umbrella after accusing her of not going to the gym.
In a separate incident, her father took out a knife and told Kelly to kill herself in front of her sister.
“We were so scared and didn’t know what to do,” Kelly recalled.
For many years, Kelly and her sister tolerated the abuse. “For a long time I stayed silent. Most people would have run away by then.”
“Outside the house, our father would smile and behave as though nothing was amiss. But once in the house, he would explode at us,” Kelly added. On top of the abuse, she said that her father was very paranoid and didn’t like her going out with her friends.
“He would say, ‘Don’t go out with them, stay at home. Clean the house. Cook.’ And I would have to obey him, even when I had to go to college. Not once did he ever say, ‘Okay, you’re already working so hard, why don't you take a day off,’” she said. However, her unemployed father would just sit at home drinking alcohol and smoking.
“Every single day he would sit in the house. There were stretches when he didn't work for six months," she said, adding her father also liked to pick fights with neighbours and friends.
“After he drinks, one day 15 bottles, he would want to fight. I don’t know what it is about fighting that makes him so satisfied," she said.
“My sister and I tried our best to stop him from smoking and drinking alcohol, but would say that it was 'good for his health', and we would just be quiet."
Kelly said because her father was unemployed, her allowance was once cut down to only 5 ringgit (US$1.52) per day.
“It wasn't even enough for me to go to college. But I did not dare ask my father for more money. I started borrowing from my friends. For my books, my equipment, my college, everything I needed I'd borrow money to pay for it from my friends,” Kelly said, adding that her grandparents did not help the situation because they still supported her father.
“He was just sitting in the house and didn’t want to do anything to earn money, and my grandmother was still giving him money every month,” she said.
“He has no shame. 50 years old, and still taking his parent’s money. He bought himself property with on his parent’s money. I vowed to myself that I would never follow in his footsteps. One day, I will buy my own property using my own money," she said. “He even bought himself a BMW 5 series car with his parents' money,” she said.
Kelly said that she was very depressed and would often confide in her friends about her problems at home. One friend suggested that she seek shelter and advice at the Malaysian womens' rights advocacy group Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).
“If not for supportive friends, I don't know what I would have done. I was totally lost. It came to a point where I couldn't even concentrate on my studies. Every time I opened a book, I would see his face," she said.
"I thank God for giving me the strength to bring my sister here. If not, I think we could have died there. I used to have nightmares at night, and always felt like I was suffocating at home. The house was just full of darkness," she added. Kelly said that she keeps hoping that her father would change, but he has not.
"He has never apologised to me for what he has done. Instead, he wants me to apologise. He wants me to lay at his feet, like he is a king," she said.
Since leaving home, Kelly has been living at the WAO refuge for some time, and hasn't spoken to her father since. At the WAO refuge, Kelly and her sister are not only provided a safe place to live in, but also free meals, counselling and guidance on how to ensure that abusers like her father face the law.
"No woman or child should have to go through what my sister and I went through," she said.
She said that women should know that they have the "power" to leave an abusive relationship, and that women are capable of "doing more" for themselves.