KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 — An Indonesian woman who survived her Malaysian husband’s abuse is now seeking assistance to remain in Malaysia to raise her four children.
Erin, whose full name cannot be disclosed to protect her, was virtually trapped in an abusive marriage due to her reliance as a foreigner on her Malaysian husband for valid papers.
“How my nationality made it difficult for me to free myself from that violence then is because at that time my husband did not renew my visa and my last child also has no birth certificate,” the 33-year-old said, adding she does not know what will happen when her six-month extension period on her spousal visa ends.
Alone here with no family, Erin had resorted to fleeing to her friends’ homes, before returning to her husband when he apologised, promised to renew her visa and secure their child’s birth certificate.
This repeated itself up to six times before Erin finally resolved to be independent, believing that she can live with her children without her husband.
“I also hope I will get aid and assistance from the welfare… I also want to live with my children in Malaysia because they all have Malaysian birth certificates, I want to take care of them until they grow up.
“And I need a place to stay and facilities to allow me to work, I hope all will help me and my children and also for the future of my children,” she said.
Violent cycle, staying strong
Married to the local ethnic Chinese man for 10 years, Erin said she initially did not know that he took drugs and that he stopped taking drugs when they had two children, but noted that he turned increasingly violent in 2014. By then they had four children.
“My husband became more violent, he would scold me, hit me, sometimes he lifted my head and banged it against the wall, pull my hair, strangled my neck, and he made me naked in front of my children, all my children saw it,” she said, believing that her children are also in trauma after witnessing all her husband’s abuse.
“He hit me, used cigarettes over my whole body, he hit me using pipes, vacuum, wood. He had also threatened me using a ‘parang’, he placed it on my head, he wanted to make me afraid,” she added.
Erin said her husband also abused her verbally, likening her to a “super-prostitute” who may only get offers of RM20 to RM30 on the streets and saying that he would call his friends to rape her.
Not knowing what to do, Erin said she could only stay strong, persevere and pray.
At one point, Erin said she even contemplated suicide, breaking the bathroom mirror and intending to use the glass shards to cut herself, but changed her mind when she thought of her four children.
“But I looked back at the mirror, I thought, I have four children, if I die, who will take care of my children. If I die, will my husband care for me or my children? No.
“I stood in front of the mirror, resolved, I will be stronger, I will fight whatever my husband does… Furthermore I thought of my four children, I will not do something stupid,” she said.
When she landed in Hospital Selayang in 2014 for treatment after filing a police report against her husband who had severely abused her, Erin sought protection for her and her children, and was directly by the hospital to Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) that provides shelter and crisis support to domestic violence survivors.
Before it’s too late
WAO president Carol Chin said Erin is now independent and that she will have to go through the standard procedure like all spouses to renew her spousal visa that is only valid for six more months, while the process of getting a birth certificate for Erin’s fourth child is still a “work in progress” that the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry will assist in.
“Erin’s story is just one of the cases that gives an example of how domestic violence cases are in Malaysia.
“Most of the time, we don’t know people are victims until it’s too late or it’s very serious. So we do reach out to all members of the public and neighbours to be more alert and to help if they see anyone that’s in crisis and it’s important that everybody should know who are the service providers to call, besides the police,” she told Malay Mail Online.
Chin noted that domestic abuse survivors have to go through a lengthy process that goes beyond just going to the hospital or calling the police, saying that they have to go to court to get protection orders, besides getting their life back in order and becoming independent.
Wao, which had previously highlighted the case of Nurhidayah A. Ghani who died at the hands of her abusive husband after her community failed to step in, is urging those who experience abuse to call its hotline at 03-79563488 or to send a text message or Whatsapp message to TINA at 018-9888058.