Silence will not make domestic violence go away

Susan, who has one child, escaped from two abusive relationships. She has remarried and leading a happier life now.

Domestic violence takes a number of forms – physical, verbal, emotional, financial and sexual abuse. It can be both subtle or violent. The victims must act to save themselves and society must not turn a blind eye to this social problem, especially now that perpetrators are taking to using technology to bully the victims and make them submissive. In this article, we hear abused women talk about their anguish.Women in despair

Tammy (not her real name) was persuaded to marry when she was just 22 years old.

“My mother-in-law was a frequent visitor at the organisation I worked for. She grew fond of me and over time convinced me to marry her son although I had never met him.

“She managed to locate my parents and discussed the proposal with them too.

“As all were in agreement to the marriage, I too consented,” said Tammy, 33, mother of two young children.

Tammy said initially all went well, even blissful, but that it was short-lived.

She said the nightmare began when her husband of 10 years started sharing revealing photos of her with strangers late last year.

“He was selling these as well as intimate video clips of us online.

“I found out about this from his e-mails and messages on his cellphone,” said Tammy, adding that this came after years of enduring domestic violence.

“It was physical, mental and emotional abuse but I put up with it because I did not know what else to do.

“Now he is violating me even more by sharing nude photos of me and of our intimate moments.

“I feel mentally and emotionally dead,” said Tammy who has now initiated divorce proceedings and lodged police report over the photos and video clips shared by her husband.

She wished that she had not been so gullible as well as tolerant and subservient to her husband all these years, taking orders and giving in to him all the time.

“Women must say no when their husbands make unreasonable demands.

“Some of the photos he distributed were taken by me. He asked me to take and forward to him and I did so because otherwise he would become abusive and unpleasant.

“I never thought he would share them with strangers.

“Even after the years of abuse, I still trusted him to a certain extent.

“I was aware of his visits to prostitutes and numerous affairs but I tolerated everything for the children’s sake.

“They are below 10 years old and I felt they needed both their parents.

“Reality set in because of the pictures and I snapped.”

She said once she made up her mind to leave her husband, she did not look back.

“I moved back to my parents’ house and also went back to work.

“I am now studying part-time too.

“I want to move on with my life and do my best for my children,” she said.

Susan (not her real name), 30, was an excellent student in school and was interested in becoming a lawyer but her bad relationships got in the way.

She regretted getting involved with the wrong type of men when she was younger.

“I had many abusive relationships, starting from when I was in my early teens.

“I met an 18-year-old guy through an online chat group and married him.

“I was looking for love outside because my parents were separated and I was lonely.

“My mother was suffering from depression and I had to get away.

“I moved in with my boyfriend when I was 18 and a year later when I became pregnant, we got married.

“I was reading law part-time and working from home. That was when the abuse began.

“My husband would lock me in the house and beat me, threatening to get full custody of my child when I asked for a divorce.

“He said he would use photographs of me out with friends at clubs to discredit me and make me look like I was not a good mother.

“It was emotionally draining and I felt helpless.

“I could not go back to my mother as she never forgave me for leaving in the first place.”

Susan said after a particularly tormenting day, she decided to leave her husband.

“I moved into a cheap flat with my baby and eventually divorced him,” she said.

Sometime later, she met another man and entered into a relationship with him.

“I was unlucky again. I suffered financial abuse, with all my earnings going into his bank account.”

Both Susan and her partner were in the real estate business.

“I did the marketing and he was in charge of sales. He pocketed it all and if I made demands, he would taunt me by calling me ugly and worthless.

“I also suffered physical abuse.

“He hit and kicked me and I would scream for help but although our neighbours were aware of what was happening, no one came to my rescue or called the police.”

Susan said her abusive relationships had the same pattern, whereby the men would first cut off her ties with friends, abuse her emotionally and try to take away her financial independence.

She left her second partner when she could no longer tolerate the situation, and had since remarried.

“My life is better now,” Susan said while emphasising that more must be done to create awareness of domestic violence and how to get out of abusive relationships.

“Besides formal education, teach children, both boys and girls, about treating others with respect, not violence.

“Teach them right from wrong and that if caught in such a situation one day, to seek help and not keep quiet.

“Coming from a broken family, I was vulnerable and tolerated it,” she added.

Janice, 40, (not her real name) graduated as a mechanical engineer but had never held a job.

She was just a teenager when she met the man whom she

tied the knot with after graduating.

“We are of the same age and from the start he was controlling and not supportive of me having a career.

“In fact, he found pleasure in putting me down and making me doubt my abilities.

“Over time, I conformed and did everything he asked.

“It was a terrible period, almost two decades of wasted life because he was gaslighting me.

“He was psychologically manipulating me to make me doubt myself and this led to low self-esteem.

“I almost hated myself and was living in fear.

“Only recently, just before the movement control order was imposed in March, I managed to seek help from the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).

“I am undergoing counselling and this is helping me.

“I have been a homemaker for so long, without any income.

“I also have no friends as my husband did not allow me to mix with others.”

Now all Janice wants is to be in charge of her life and care for her three children.

“I want to be financially independent before filing for divorce, so I have started giving tuition classes,” she said.

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