Refuge for abused women in Malaysia

by Women's Aid Organisation (WAO)
Oct 23, 2012

Life is precious!

“If you are strong enough to end your life, then you are strong enough to live your life”. I was talking to Su Zane, our Social Work Manager about the hardships that domestic violence survivors had to go through that drove them to the edge in the end. Suicide is a somber topic for most of us but a frequent thought that lingers in the mind of survivors.

According to WAO’s Annual Statistics 2011, there were 110 women who sought shelter at the Refuge last year. Out of the 110 women, 36 of them considered suicide. Among the 36 women, 16 of them   attempted to end their life. A few of the 16 women had attempted suicide once and almost up to more than 4 times. How do we know?

A social worker analyses the women’s medical history before they reside temporarily at WAO’s Refuge. Many questions will be asked including the subject of suicide tendencies/attempt(s) and as you can see, the numbers shown above are quite alarming.

WAO’s social worker, Uma said “We always ask questions. We ask about their family background, their childhood and if they have seen anyone attempting suicide, where do they get the thought to end their life and so on. You are thinking why bring up all these sensitive topics? It’s very important for us to know every detail because somewhere somehow the suicide attempt or even the thought of it had stemmed from something in their life experience from as far back as their younger years. We try to trace the origin of the thought and with the information, we can then begin addressing their problem effectively. Social worker use different techniques when giving counseling to the women and every woman who comes to us are in different levels of emotion. I remember talking to one of our residents who was in a very vulnerable state and reminding her of her achievements in life especially her children. She began to smile. It was the greatest feeling. My work with her had not ended but the change of emotion was a good start. Not every case is the same though”.

Abused and battered women or even rape survivors experience pain not only, physically but mentally. Some of the women who chose death over life made that decision in their time of suffering when the hurt and humiliation was never ending; when they have lost trust in the person whom they can depend on and when they are on the edge of a cliff with no one holding them back. 

Learn to listen and learn to listen intently. During the recent WAO’s teambuilding exercise, we had a session called Coffee Talk and all of us were paired up. Everyone had a chance to talk about themselves for 5 minutes while the other person listened. It was then we found out how powerful it is to just be present and give the other person all the time that you have got. In the case of working with women who are overcoming adversity, the listening ability and empathy is extremely useful and important before the social workers can begin challenging their thoughts.

A suicide attempt is a desperate call for help and every attempt must be taken seriously. With your support, WAO continues to listen attentively and walk with survivors so that suicide doesn’t ever become an option or a solution.


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Organization Information

Women's Aid Organisation (WAO)

Location: Petaling Jaya, Selangor - Malaysia
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Sumitra Visvanathan
Petaling Jaya, Selangor Malaysia

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