| Jun 24, 2021
A Survivor's Journey to A Life Free from Abuse
Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) continues to assist survivors in their journey to live a life free from abuse, especially during a global pandemic where a survivor's safety is not guaranteed during lockdowns. Just as with the number of COVID-19 cases increasing in Malaysia, cases of gender-based violence -- domestic violence in particular -- continues to spike as well. Our social workers work tirelessly to ensure that women and child survivors are able to seek safety.
Below is the case study of Phoebe*, who is a survivor of domestic violence, and it details her journey in successfully leaving her abusive home with her children.
Content warning / Trigger warning: Mentions of violence, abuse and child sexual abuse.
Phoebe; a Domestic violence survivor, reached out to WAO for assistance as she was in an abusive marriage with her husband for 24 years. The abuse started within the first year of marriage. Phoebe went through various forms of abuse throughout her marriage; physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse and also social abuse. He has also picked her up and dropped her on the floor “like a doll” as Phoebe would describe it during the abusive incidents previously. The physical abuse resulted in bruises on her body and also a swollen head. Phoebe endured the abuse as she wanted her children to have a complete household. Phoebe stayed and forgave her husband multiple times.
Late last year, Phoebe found out and started suspecting that her husband has also been sexually abusing their daughter. Phoebe felt worried and knew that staying with this man is not an option anymore as it will not only harm her but may put their daughters in danger as well.
Phoebe decided to call WAO to seek assistance as she has decided to leave the abusive situation because she wants her children to grow up in a healthier and safer environment. She would also like WAO’s case management so that she can take action against her husband for both domestic violence and child sexual abuse. Despite being able to reach out to WAO, the client could not leave the abusive situation immediately due to a few hurdles. One reason being her every movement was monitored and controlled by her husband. Also, Phoebe’s daughter was also in the midst of preparing for her national examination and the idea of escaping now due to the abuse was more terrifying for the child as she already felt pressured for the national exams in the midst of a pandemic. Knowing that Phoebe was not able to escape immediately, WAO social worker came up with a safety plan to check in with Phoebe every Saturday’s by sending her a text message pretending to be someone else and a safety planning was also done to ensure if an abuse occurs again throughout this period what were the immediate steps that Phoebe can take for herself and her children. If Phoebe replies, then it means she is safe, but if Phoebe does not reply after 12 hours, it means she is not safe and WAO can call the police on her behalf. This safety plan was implemented and executed for about 2 months duration until Phoebe was able to finally leave the abusive household this year.
After a few months, WAO social worker remotely assisted Phoebe with her escape by guiding her on when to leave and what important documents to bring with her. Phoebe left the house when her husband went out briefly. Once Phoebe managed to escape safely with her children, WAO assisted her in terms of successfully lodging a police report and seeking medical treatment for her and her daughter. WAO also successfully assisted her in obtaining an interim protection order for her and her children. WAO is still currently assisting the survivor in following up with her Domestic violence, child sexual abuse case and also divorce proceedings. Although Phoebe’s case's final outcome and justice has not been confirmed, Phoebe and her children are living independently free from violence and despite Phoebe having to move to an unfamiliar state for her safety, she has persevered in taking charge of her own life despite the struggles of finding new jobs, schools and a support system. Phoebe got herself and children into therapy to deal with their traumas from the years of abuse and is currently undergoing counselling still. She eventually found herself a stable job and has reconnected with her family and friends that she could not keep in touch with when she was controlled by her husband before. Phoebe often mentions to her social worker that she feels like WAO is her very own family as WAO made her feel heard and accompanied throughout this journey.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the survivor