“Nellie” (not her real name), a 21-year-old domestic violence survivor contacted WAO hotline at 9.30pm on May 19th, 2020 requesting for shelter. She was afraid to return home earlier in the evening, after being forced by her family to withdraw a police report she made against her husband, for domestic abuse.
After a quick assessment to get more information on the case, WAO learned that “Nellie” was forced by her very own family, into an arranged marriage.
She was married off on March 14th, 2020, just four days before the Movement Control Order (MCO) - lockdown in Malaysia - was enforced.
The abuse started on the fifth day of marriage when her husband hit her on her chest with his head. It didn’t end there as the abuse only got worse.
A day before she contacted WAO, her newly-wed husband had pushed her and pinned her against a wall. He then punched her on her chest and hit her with his hand.
“Nellie” suffered injuries to her head and chin; her hand was bleeding. Her husband threatened to hunt her down and kill her if she tried to run away from him. Fortunately “Nellie” found the courage to make a police report after going to stay with her cousin in another suburb the next day.
She said she found it difficult to leave her abusive marriage as her family was in favour of her husband; they had, after all, arranged her marriage. She couldn’t confide in them and received no support from them either.
Three hours after returning home from her cousin’s, “Nellie” called WAO to say that she could not leave her abusive marriage and would be uncontactable thereafter, as it was unsafe for her to connect with us.
But the following day, she called a WAO Social Worker on duty at 4pm, expressing her intention to leave that night. A safety plan was drawn up and WAO briefed her. She in turn said she would inform WAO when she found a safe time to leave that night.
A WAO team on standby did not hear from “Nellie” that night. We could not call the police either as WAO respects a victim’s privacy and decision as they may not be ready to leave a situation yet.
On May 21st, 2020, a WAO Social Worker on-call receives a message from “Nellie” saying she had a window of opportunity to make an escape but had to leave specifically at 3.30am.
She snuck out of her flat, under the nose of her unsupportive mother who was at home. WAO made arrangements for a taxi to wait for her near her flat and ferry her to a WAO Shelter.
On arrival at the shelter around 4.30am, “Nellie” was seen to be unable to walk and had to be carried into the shelter. It was visible that her leg on one side was completely twisted and was swelling. When probed, she said in order to escape, she had to jump from the balcony of her flat on the first floor.
As a representative of WAO and a woman myself, I was totally lost for words that a 21-year old woman had to jump to save herself from her abusive husband during the lockdown.
Arrangements were made for “Nellie” to be taken to the hospital where we were informed that she required surgery having suffered multiple fractures on her four toes. She was recently discharged from the hospital and is in safe hands at a WAO shelter where she is cared for and is being assisted with case management.