Young mother's 'murder' raises issue of support for domestic abuse victims

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): The suspected murder of a young mother whose initial report of domestic violence was reportedly rejected by the police has sparked criticisms over law enforcement’s treatment of domestic abuse reports and the government’s lack of support for victims of abuse.

Mega Suryani Dewi, 24, was found dead on Sept 10 at her rented house in Bekasi, West Java. Her 25-year-old husband Nando turned himself in to the police, admitting that he had killed his wife with a knife following a quarrel.

Nando is alleged to have hit his wife multiple times during their argument, which reportedly occurred while their two young children were at home.

The violent argument was apparently not the first to occur between the couple, and Mega’s brother Deden Suryana told the press that his sister had previously reported Nando to police for domestic abuse.

Deden claimed that the police did not follow up on Mega’s complaint and had dismissed it after Nando told them that his wife had returned home and the pair had reconciled following the reported quarrel.

The Bekasi Police denied dropping the complaint, saying instead that Mega had not responded to their summons to follow up on her complaint because she could not take time off from work.

“The victim also told us that she was planning to drop the charges because she had reconciled with her husband,” Bekasi Police criminal investigation chief Comr Gogo Galesung said recently, as quoted by

Mega’s alleged murder and her initial report of domestic abuse has gone viral on social media after it sparked outrage among Indonesian netizens.

Some users criticised the police’s sluggish response to Mega’s domestic abuse report, alleging that this eventually led to her death at her husband’s hands.

Others condemned a general lack of support for domestic abuse victims, including from family members and neighbors.

Mega’s family members and neighbours were reportedly aware of the abuse. One neighbor said they had heard her crying for help on the day of her death, but decided not to intervene, deeming it a private issue.

Mega had also posted complaints about her husband’s violent behaviour on social media, saying that she felt “all alone”.

The country has seen an increase in cases of domestic abuse. Mega’s case comes two months after a 31-year-old woman in Pati, Central Java, allegedly died as a result of abuse by her husband. She was reportedly found two days after her death, a month-old baby in her arms and two young children crying near her body.

Police have arrested the woman’s husband and charged him with violating the 2004 law on domestic violence, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a Rp 45 million (US$2,928) fine.

The Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry recorded 25,050 cases of domestic violence in 2022, a 15.2 per cent increase compared to the previous year. Both authorities and observers believe that the actual figure is higher, as most victims of domestic abuse refrained from reporting to the police over fears of being stigmatised.

Khotimun Susanti, who works at the Jakarta branch of the Legal Aid Foundation’s Association of Indonesian Women for Justice (LBH Apik), said many victims of domestic abuse often faced pressure from their families to not file a police report.

“Many people think domestic abuse is a private matter and that opening it up to the public is shameful,” Khotimun told The Jakarta Post.

“A lot of women are also concerned about [what would happen to] their children’s future if they reported their husbands to the police,” she added.

Khotimun also said police often treated domestic abuse cases as a minor matter, frequently using so-called restorative justice to resolve them.

“Law enforcement officers fail to understand the power imbalance between a victim and their abuser,” she said, noting that efforts at mediation or out-of-court settlements often did not help victims of abuse.

“Using restorative justice is simply misguided,” Khotimun said.

Mitsalina Adani, founder of the Rumah Bulan community for victims of domestic violence, is of the same view. She said people who reported domestic abuse, which involved navigating complicated bureaucracy, were often told to reconcile with their abusers.

“Some police officers even blame the victims for the abuse,” said Mitsalina.

“This phenomenon stems from the fact that most of our law enforcement officers are men who hold to patriarchal beliefs and do not have a deep understanding about the pattern of [abuse].”

She also concurred with Khotimun about using restorative justice to resolve cases of domestic abuse.

The approach was harmful to victims, she said, and allowing a victim to stay with their abuser after they had “reconciled” often led to the escalation of violence over time.

Both Mitsalina and Khotimun said perpetrators of abuse were unlikely to stop their violent behaviour without intervention. It is often difficult for victims of abuse to access government resources to escape domestic violence, such as shelters with limited space, which only exacerbated their situation.

Khotimun said government resources for legal, financial and psychological assistance were limited. This was especially so for remote areas, which might have a higher number of cases.

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Indonesia , young , mother , domestic , abuse , murder


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