SINGAPORE: For several years, Jane (not her actual name) endured her husband’s punches and beatings in silence - the abuse continuing even when she was pregnant.
“He just kept on hitting me until I told him stop, I’m really going to die,” she said of one instance.
There were times when, she added, “I couldn’t even scream because my kids were outside. I didn’t want to wake them up.”
When they got married, Jane had heard people saying he was hot-tempered. “Maybe I chose not to see that part,” she said. And like many victims of abuse tend to do, she ended up blaming herself - “like I’m the reason for him to be like that”.
Jane shared her story of spousal abuse in an episode of On The Red Dot, which airs Friday (Nov 18) at 9.30pm on Mediacorp Channel 5.
Earlier this week, a three-year campaign called "Break the Silence" was launched to increase awareness about family violence.
According to Ms Goh Si Yong, a senior social worker with the Singapore Children’s Society, women like Jane may keep the abuse a secret for years, because they are “fearful about the recurrence of violence” or “that the husband will harm the child”.
“They could also be afraid that people would label them as a bad wife. So they do not come forward to seek help,” she said.
Mary (not her actual name) was another such victim. Abused from 2007 to 2015, she kept her ordeal a secret - in part because she came from Vietnam. “My husband always said that I am a foreigner, nobody would believe what I have to say,” she said in Mandarin.
WATCH: The story of Mary, who was abused for 8 years
Help for Mary came from an unlikely source - her daughter’s school counsellor, who heard from the young girl how her father treated her mother. The counsellor referred Mary to PAVE, the Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence.
In Jane’s case, she eventually confessed her ordeal to a doctor who treated her injuries. Both Mary and Jane filed for a personal protection order (PPO) against their spouses.
In 2015, the Family Justice Courts received 2,885 applications for legal protection against family violence - 75.6 per cent of these were filed by women.
Without a PPO, many cases would be classified as a family dispute, with the law unable to intervene. Those who breach the order can be fined up to S$2,000, jailed for up to six months or both.
Today, Jane is planning to start divorce proceedings, while Mary has begun the process - her Permanent Resident status will not be revoked in the event of a divorce.
Jane said: “I always tried to put on a very brave front (for my kids)… and I think that was a big mistake I made. Once I started opening up, that’s when I got most support. Something that was missing for very long because I didn’t tell anyone.”
Said Mary: “Do not suffer in silence. It’s very tough. We can stand up and be brave, find help with organisations.”
A PPO can be applied for at:
Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence (PAVE)
Blk 211 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3, #01-1446
Tel: 6555 0390
TRANS SAFE Centre
Blk 410 Bedok North Avenue 2, #01-58
Tel: 6449 9088
Care Corner Project StART
Blk 7A Commonwealth Ave, 01-672