For months, Munira* called the WAO Hotline to talk to the social workers. For months, she spoke about leaving her husband but she wasn’t ready. For months, she was concerned about her child having to live with this kind of torture. Five months later, Munira stepped out of the house, after 11 years of marriage, and into a safer space for her and her son.
Looking back, Munira realised that she has suffered from psychological and financial abuse. If she asked her husband why he didn’t come home the night before, he would pretend that he has told her and accused that she forgot. He would also scream and shout at her for hours every night and she wouldn’t get to sleep.
Munira has been financially supporting the family for five years. Her husband didn’t have any interest in holding a job and often gambled her money away. She gave him RM600 from her small pay every month.
During her conversation with her social worker, Munira brought up the reasons why it was so difficult for her to leave. She said that her own family situation was far worse than what she was experiencing. And so she felt that she could live with it. Her husband also used his surgery which took place more than five years ago as a reason to hold her back. It became very difficult for Munira to move on.
At WAO, Munira got herself some time to focus on her son and her life. Despite showing signs of insecurity, Munira was a very responsible person. As part of the security measure, Munira was asked if she would consider changing her job because her husband could easily find her there. But Munira was adamant to stay on her job.
During her stay at the shelter, the social worker worked closely with Munira to build her confidence. She was asked to list down five things that she wanted to achieve while staying at the shelter. One of it was to ensure that her son got help as Munira was concerned that he didn’t get to express himself after all that has happened at home.
Munira’s son was put into play therapy at WAO to help him work out his emotions through play. He was also registered under WAO’s Anak Angkat programme to get his education funded in a year by sponsors. Munira was very focused throughout her journey to recovery. She decided to file for a divorce and worked on getting custody of her child.
She said that many years ago, she had suicidal thoughts. She had those thoughts even when she was just a child. At 20, she contemplated suicide. After everything that she has gone through with her marriage and now that she has gotten help, she believed that she needed to be stronger to protect herself and her son.
Munira has left the shelter and moved on with her life. Her son continued attending play therapy sessions and showed signs of improvement.
Munira might not have experienced physical abuse but domestic violence also manifests itself as psychological or verbal abuse. The impact is just as damaging.
Domestic violence affects one in nine ever-partnered women in Malaysia according to the 2014 study by Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Research on Women and Gender (KANITA). Let’s do something about it. Let's end violence against women.
*Name has been changed to protect identity