Coping Together as a Family

Mina and Johan were leading a happy life together with their 8-year old son. Suddenly, out of the blue, Johan started to behave differently. He would go to bed late at night and play computer games immediately after returning home from work. He would also inexplicably lash out at his wife and son when they tried to talk to him.

Mina was badly affected by her husband’s behaviour. She was also concerned about the impact of his behaviour on their son. She came to WCC to seek help.

WCC’s social worker provided counselling to Mina and her son. The social worker also taught Mina and her son controlled breathing techniques to help them cope with their stressful emotions.

Mina’s son felt anxious about his parents’ arguments. Somehow, he believed that it was his fault. WCC’s social worker assured him that what was happening was not his fault. She also helped him to identify safe spaces in his home whenever his mother experienced an emotional breakdown, and to learn how to comfort her in his own way. This helped the child to feel safer and better equipped to handle the situation. In turn, Mina learnt to regulate her own emotions better when she noticed her son being supportive of her.

Mina’s husband, Johan, was advised to seek counselling for his behaviour. Thankfully, he was willing to do so. After undergoing counselling, Johan came to realise that his behaviour was hurting his family. He apologised to his wife and son, seeking their forgiveness. Their relationships have greatly improved. They now communicate more openly and positively as a family.

Raped and a single mother at 16

Lily knew Joe from a long time ago through one of her friends. Lily was 16, studying in Form 4. Joe was 23 and unemployed. They became good friends. One day, Joe invited Lily to a hotel. Curious about the purpose of the invitation, Lily followed him. “At first, I was confused about why he suddenly invited me to a hotel. But I trusted him and decided to follow him.”

Once they reached the hotel room, Joe pushed her into the room and forced himself on her. She tried to run away from him but he managed to drag her back into the room. He pinned her down on the bed and raped her. He also recorded the act using his mobile phone. Lily was severely traumatised and cried in pain. Joe promised her that he would be responsible for what had happened and told her not to tell anyone about it.

After the incident, Joe frequently visited her at her house to ensure that she didn’t tell anyone about the incident. He knew her vulnerability and took advantage of it. He kept assuring her that he would take full responsibility if Lily ever got pregnant. In one of their meetings, Lily managed to delete the recorded video from his phone. She was uncertain whether or not to tell her parents about the incident. However, she started to distance herself from Joe.

A few months went by and Lily noticed that she had missed her monthly period. She went to a health clinic for a medical check-up but was referred to a government hospital. The doctor who examined her found that she was four months pregnant. Lily had no choice but to disclose the incident to her parents. Her parents were very upset and angry at her for not speaking up earlier. At the same time, they were devastated. Lily felt ashamed and shattered. It was then that they decided to lodge a report about the rape.

At the One Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) of the government hospital, Lily was examined and referred to WCC Seberang office for counselling. Lily blamed herself for causing a lot of trouble to her parents. She was unsure what to do at the first counselling session with a WCC social worker. WCC’s social worker assured Lily that it was not her fault. Lily felt relieved and stopped blaming herself for what had happened.

An Investigating Officer (IO) from the police department was assigned to her case. Lily was informed by her IO that Joe had been arrested. She was once again shattered when the IO informed her that Joe refused to admit that he had raped her and would not take any responsibility for the baby. Lily and her family were approached by Joe’s mother who proposed that Joe and Lily get married. Lily and her parents turned down the proposal in disgust. They were determined to take action against Joe.

Lily had no choice but to stop schooling and stay in a welfare shelter home until she gave birth. Unfortunately, the investigation of the case had to be delayed as a DNA test could only be performed after the baby was born. During this time, Joe was released under police bail. A few months later when the baby was born, the DNA test result turned out to be positive. The IO immediately transferred the case to the prosecution office so that further action could be taken.

Lily went back to school. She focused on her studies and managed to complete her schooling. After that, she managed to secure a job, with which she was able to support herself and her baby. Her parents were also very supportive by taking care of her baby while she worked.

Lily was informed by her IO that Joe was supposed to be charged in court but had failed to attend court several times. The court issued a warrant of arrest against him and the police marked him as a wanted person. After about nine months, Joe was arrested and charged in court for statutory rape, and was not offered any bail.

Three years had passed since the time of the rape incident until the time Joe was re-arrested. Lily and her parents received a summons which required them to attend court to testify in the case. WCC’s social worker and advocacy officer accompanied them to court, explained the court process and showed them the court room settings, which helped to reduce their anxiety.

On the first day of the trial, Joe pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 5 years’ jail and 1 stroke of the cane.

Lily shared what the experience in court was like for her:

“At first, I felt very anxious and was shivering most of the time. The (court) environment was very intimidating. It had been a painful experience and it was difficult for me to recall and tell the court what had happened 3 years ago. I felt very relieved when I heard that he had pleaded guilty.”

Lily wrote a Victim Impact Statement (VIS) which contained details of her suffering and trauma as a result of this crime. Her VIS was submitted to the court by the deputy public prosecutor (DPP).

“As a result of the incident, I was forced to take on the responsibility of becoming a mother at a young age.”

“I was put in a shelter home until I gave birth. This delayed my schooling for a year. Nevertheless, I still sat for the SPM exam.

Another impact is the damage to my relationship with my family. Even though they are supportive of me and my child, our relationship has deteriorated, especially with my father. He took a long time to accept the situation. He has lost his trust in me. Until now, my father still worries a lot when I leave home to meet my friends.

I will try to fix the relationship with my parents and rebuild their trust. I will also try and look after and educate my child well. I have accepted everything in my life with an open heart.”

Leaving Fear Behind

Laila and her husband Ken were expecting their second child when they opened their house up to Eddie, Ken’s work colleague. Laila and Ken did not have to think twice about welcoming him to their home as they regarded him as their own brother. On the surface, Eddie was the perfect house guest – he contributed to household groceries and was a loving “uncle” to their 3-year-old child.

After three months, Eddie announced that he would be leaving both his job and Laila and Ken’s house. A month after Eddie moved out, he appeared at Laila’s front door while Ken was at work.

Eddie claimed that he was there to retrieve his shoes that he had forgotten to take with him. Even though she knew Eddie, Laila felt uneasy as she did not recall seeing any of his belongings around the house. After telephoning Ken to inform him about Eddie’s arrival, Laila decided to let him in.

The moment Eddie entered the house, his entire demeanour changed. He shoved Laila against the wall and forced her into her bedroom. She struggled to free herself and was worried his actions would harm her pregnancy. Eddie pushed her on the bed and forced himself upon her. She fought him off the best she could and eventually managed to free herself from his clutches. Laila quickly ran out of the house with her child who was sleeping in the living room. She immediately locked the door behind her, trapping Eddie in the house.

Laila quickly rang Ken to tell him what had happened. As Eddie was confined to the house, Ken and Laila went to the nearest police station first to report the incident. They then took the police officers to their house where they arrested Eddie. A police officer asked Ken to bring his wife to the One Stop Crisis Centre at Hospital Seberang Jaya to seek medical attention.

Laila and Ken came to WCC after being referred by both the hospital and the police Investigation Officer (IO). During her counselling session, Laila informed the WCC social worker that she suffered nightmares of the violent incident on an almost nightly basis. Furthermore, Laila blamed herself for what happened and felt unable to trust anyone. She was still extremely shocked that someone she considered a family member would commit such a heinous act.

“I called him a brother and he called me his little sister. Why did he do that to me? I kept shouting ‘brother’ when he pushed and forced me but he never stopped, even when he knew I was pregnant.”

The WCC social worker met Laila twice a month to counsel and help her build coping mechanisms to better deal with her trauma. With her social worker’s help, Laila created a logbook to record her emotional condition when experiencing her nightmares.

When Eddie was charged in court, the WCC social worker sat down with Laila and Ken to explain the court procedures with the use of WCC’s ‘Surviving Court’ videos. This greatly alleviated the couple’s fears and concerns.

The WCC social worker was actively communicating with the IO to obtain case updates. Although Eddie initially pleaded guilty, he then changed his plea and claimed trial, making it necessary for Laila and Ken to testify in court. This impeded Laila’s recovery and worsened her anxiety. In addition to fearing that Eddie and his friends would harm her family, Laila was also worried that her husband would abandon her.

On the day of the court trial, the WCC social worker and advocacy officer accompanied Laila and her husband to court to provide support. Testifying in court was an emotionally taxing experience for Laila. Initially feeling shame, Laila told the social worker that she eventually felt a sense of closure and relief after recounting the traumatic incident in court. Eddie pleaded guilty to molestation and was sentenced to 18m months’ imprisonment.

Laila and Ken thanked everyone who assisted them during this time, including the IO, the hospital staff, and WCC.

“I am glad that the nurse told me to come here (WCC) because I didn’t know what to do. We could not have handled the court process without WCC’s support. The police officer was also very good – she always listened and spoke politely to me whenever I was confused about whatever was going on.”

Drug-fuelled violence in the home

Nurul was a mother of 4 children who enjoyed the first 10 years of her marriage. She had a responsible husband who was a loving father to their children. In their 11th year of marriage, everything changed. Her husband started behaving strangely and became violent. She didn’t understand what was going on until the day she found a packet of drugs in their room. Despite Nurul knowing that her husband’s siblings were drug addicts and that her father in-law drank ‘ketum’, she never expected that her husband would succumb to drugs.

That one year felt like hell to Nurul. Her husband would beat her almost 2 to 3 times a week. One morning, over a minor matter, her husband pulled her into the middle of the paddy field. He started to beat, slap, kick and punch her body and face until it was swollen and bluish. After using her as an object to release his anger, her husband tried to undress her . Nurul managed to escape and brought her 4 children to her aunt’s house. Her aunt then brought her to WCC for help.

WCC social worker held several counselling sessions with Nurul. She wanted to get out of her current life. She could not stand her violent husband anymore. As her husband was already arrested by the Agensi Anti Dadah Kebangsaan (National Anti Drug Agency) for rehabilitation purposes, Nurul was able to return home to her children. WCC’s social worker helped Nurul plan for a new life for herself and her 4 children.

Betraying A Child’s Trust

Kim is 8 years old and like many other children her age, she is a lively and cheerful girl. One day, when her mother returned home from a short trip, Kim disclosed the ordeal she had been facing for nearly three years during her private art lessons.

Kim had been attending art tuition with Mr. Lim who was a private tutor. The tuition would take place in Mr. Lim’s home.

The first encounter occurred when Kim was 5 years old. It happened in Mr. Lim’s bathroom. He had followed her when she went to the bathroom. He suggested that they play a “game” and subsequently removed her panties. He touched her private parts and asked if she enjoyed the feeling of being touched. Kim replied “No!” and he assured her that very soon she would learn to enjoy it.

The molestation continued throughout their lessons together. Mr Lim exposed Kim to pornography. He even suggested that they have sex but Kim rejected him saying that her parents might find out about it.

Mr Lim constantly told Kim not to reveal anything to anyone, especially her parents and her sister. Eventually, Kim stopped attending lessons with Mr. Lim.

Upon learning what had happened, Kim’s mother, Mrs. Fong, was shocked and devastated. She was adamant about reporting the matter to the authorities and wanted to seek justice for Kim. A friend of hers referred her to WCC.

WCC’s social worker explored the case and explained to her that what Mr Lim did was a serious criminal act. She filed a police report against Mr. Lim. Mrs Fong was relieved to know that WCC would support Kim and the family all the way through the criminal justice process.

Feeling Safe at Home Again

Saras was a widowed mother of three adult sons. She was living alone until her middle son, Raj, moved back home with his girlfriend.

From the moment Raj moved in, he and his girlfriend harassed and emotionally threatened his mother. They would say hurtful things like “why isn’t this old woman dead yet?”, break household items, and make subtle threats to damage Saras’ home. They cut Saras’ Astro wires to prevent her from watching television. Saras became anxious and feared that they would harm her. She made several police reports but no action was taken, on the excuse that she did not sustain any physical injuries. Saras was desperate to stop the mental torture so she moved from one relative’s home to another. This resulted in great exhaustion and frustration.

Saras came to WCC for help. WCC’s social worker spoke to Saras as well as her eldest son, Suresh, to see what could be done. The social worker worked with Saras and Suresh to draft and lodge a comprehensive police report on the abuse she experienced by Raj and his girlfriend.

The social worker also briefed the police investigating officer on the multiple reports that Saras had previously lodged. This alerted the police to the earlier incidents of violence as well. Reviewing the reports, the police decided to take action against Raj and he was eventually charged in court.

Meanwhile, with the support from WCC, Saras was granted a protection order by the magistrate. Raj and his girlfriend moved out of the home, and Saras changed the house locks.

Saras has managed to move on with her life, and now spends more time at Suresh’s home, where she also enjoys time with her grandchildren.

The Online Friend Who Wasn’t

In 2017, I befriended a man through WeChat. I was studying and living in a rented room away from my parents who lived in another town.

He started off easygoing and humble but after a few months, his real colours showed. He began to use vulgar words and acting strangely. I decided to block him from contacting me.

I thought that was the end of the problem.

When my phone died on me, I decided to get a new phone. My WeChat account went haywire and he managed to contact me again!

He insisted that we dated and threatened that if I refused, he would share my photos and phone number on porn websites. I was shocked.

I was thinking of my parents and how ashamed they would be if they heard of this. I agreed to go out with him – but only for dinner. On the said day, he took me to his brother’s house as he said the dinner was at his brother’s house.

I felt something was amiss. When we reached his brother’s house, no one was around and he pushed me into his bedroom and raped me. I tried to fight back but he was stronger.

After the rape, I began to change and my housemates sensed something wasn’t right. They kept asking me until I told them about the rape. They said I needed to report the crime.

I was brought to the police station and then to the OSCC (One Stop Crisis Centre) at a government hospital for a medical examination. WCC Seberang called me and told me about their counselling. It took some time for me to be brave enough to step into the WCC Seberang office.

I was told of the court process and when the day of the trial came, the WCC social worker and advocacy officer went with me to court. It made me feel more confident.

After the perpetrator was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment and 5 strokes of the cane, I felt relieved.

WCC also encouraged me to continue studying and I now plan to start my own business once I have graduated.

The Uncle Monster

I was in the living room playing with my brother when Uncle came over one day. He sat down and called me over, asking me to sit on his lap. He said he was tired and could I sing to him.

As we sang, his hand started moving up my thighs and under my skirt. He continued upwards as he told me to keep singing.

Uncle was Ayah’s friend from work and he was even older than Ayah. He would drop my sister and me at school and pick us up after. He would always ask us about what we did at school and I always got a big hug after I told him.

“It’s a special hug for a clever girl,” he would say. Some days, if I was very clever at school, he would give me an extra-long hug and rub my shoulders, even though I wasn’t tired.

Many times he would look after us until Mak came back from work.

I was eight at that time.

He pushed his hand into my panty and his fingers into my private parts. It felt like a thousand knives were cutting me up. I wanted to scream but no sound came out. I began to cry and he kept telling me to relax. He continued pushing his fingers inside me and my private parts began to hurt terribly. At that moment, I found my voice and screamed as loudly as I could.

My sister rushed into the room but he told that it was nothing as he pulled my panties back on. I stood up but I was shaky and blood streamed out. The pain was making me dizzy.

“It’s nothing,” he said to my sister but she was already pale and frightened. She took a photo of me with her phone and sent it to Mak who was then at work. Mak started screaming – “What did you do to my daughter?” – down the phone at him but he quickly left.

When Mak came home, she hugged me and told me she had already called the police. She said she would never let him hurt me again. When Ayah came home, he too looked beaten. He put on a brave face but he too had tears in his eyes. “I’m so sorry,” he said, pulling me close.

A lot of things happened after that but a lot were like bits and pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. There were trips to the police station where I had to explain over and over to different police how the man had hurt me. Mak and my sister also had to answer questions. I found out later that the police caught the man and had him locked up.

Uncle couldn’t get me anymore, but he had already taken a little of me. Many nights I woke up sweating and shaking from bad dreams of him. All I would remember was how small and weak I felt while he was hurting me.

Uncle couldn’t get me anymore but it felt like he had already got part of my family. Ayah blamed Mak for being careless and leaving us with the Monster. Mak blamed Ayah and they fought a lot.

Mak and Ayah also used words like “charged and “trial.” No one understood the process of going to court but we were lucky to have found WCC Seberang.

The WCC social worker was kind and friendly and took care of us. She told us what would happen in court and she let us watch videos about the process.

We went to court many times. Each time, the social worker came with us to make sure we felt safe. She would call us often to check on how my family and I were doing. The social worker helped us every step of the way during the long two-year court process.

When the monster was charged and found guilty, he was sent to prison for 10 years. He was also going to get six strokes of the cane.

As a family, we moved away from Penang to start anew again. Mak and Ayah don’t fight so much.

My sister, brother and I decided we can look after each other so Mak doesn’t need to find babysitting help.
I still have days when I can’t sleep and I am scared if the monster will get out.

But I am getting better. I am breaking free from the monster a little more every day.

She Wanted To See Her Perpetrator

Aini, a four-year-old, was the youngest client referred to me under Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) cases as a WCC social worker.

She had agreed to testify in court using video. I praised her for her courage because the accused is her biological father who had raped her.

It wasn’t easy for her to describe what happened but she bravely testified after a few moments of silence. Even as a four-year-old, the incident had been deeply imprinted in her mind.

When I met Aini for the first time, she was reserved and scared of strangers. She soon came to trust me after we met for a few times and I saw a glimpse of the cheerful child.

After giving her testimony, Aini began to play as all children do. Her favourite game was tag where we both chased each other. After a while, she asked if she could see the Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP).

I agreed to bring her to the DPP but suddenly Aini said quietly to me that she wanted to meet her father. I was dumbfounded! She wanted me to bring her to the courtroom so she could sneak a peek at her father.

Now I realized why she wanted to play tag with me, inching closer to the courtroom door each time. She had wanted to see her father since the trial started.

Although I was angry, I could understand her. As a child, she still longed for affection. I was conflicted with myself as I could not endanger her yet her request seemed simple and innocent enough.

After all that had happened, Aini still wanted to see her father. She was still attached to him despite the terrible incident she had gone through.

Being caught off guard with this unexpected request, I tried to calm Aini and asked why she wanted to do so. As a social worker, I was caught in a dilemma between my professional obligations and personal values.
After a while, I decided to bring Aini to have a glimpse of her father. I also asked her to be quiet. She indicated that she understood by putting her hands on her mouth.

With the help of court personnel, Aini tried to look through the courtroom but the courtroom was already empty.

She knew her father was in the courtroom when she was testifying using video. I couldn’t explain to her that her father had been taken away by the police after being sentenced.

I decided to calm her by saying that she could meet him if he became a good person. She seemed to understand this and stopped asking for him.

This certainly disturbed me. I was overwhelmed and couldn’t place my own feelings. I was sad, disappointed and upset.

I had helped this child escape an ugly human being and he was punished for his sexual crime but inside I was overwhelmed. (The perpetrator was sentenced in April 2018 to 20 years jail and 10 strokes of the cane.)

The Man And The Monster

“When my neighbours see me in the morning, they know what happened to me again the night before,” Patty told our WCC Seberang Perai social worker.

She was introduced to Tom who owned an electronics repair shop and she thought this was going to be the end of her difficult life. She had grown up without a mother and her father often fell sick and never could hold a job for long.

Patty herself dropped out of school to work and support her family but she never seemed to get anywhere with her jobs. She would either work as a babysitter or maid.

Tom was positively charming and he owned a small business. He promised that he would take care of her. It wasn’t long before they were married and she finally felt she could free herself of her family burdens.

When her second baby arrived, Tom suddenly changed. He started hanging out with unsavoury characters.

“When I asked him why he had stopped paying for our household items and where his money was going, he would shout, ‘Lu siao ah! (You’re crazy!)’ He would slap me so hard. If I dared ask who he went out with, I would get a black eye or a swollen and bleeding lip. Bruises and his fist to my face were the only answers I got,” Patty said bitterly.

Tom’s aggression increased with time. He would drag Patty out of bed in the middle of the night in a rage, accusing her of being unfaithful (which was rather ironic as he had a mistress!), an unfit wife and mother.

“He called me so many dirty names,” recalled Patty. Tom would rant loudly for so long that the children would wake up. When Patty shouted back, Tom would beat her up.  She tried seeking help from her father-in-law, but her pleas to intervene fell on deaf ears.

“In over ten years of marriage, I barely had a night of peaceful sleep,” said Patty. Patty and her three children, aged between three and fourteen, often found “crystal powder” scattered on the floors of the house.

One day after attending a talk on the dangers of drug use at school, her eldest child disclosed, “I think Papa is taking Ice.” Her child began to list the signs of Ice abuse: not sleeping, violent behaviour, paranoia and suspicion.

Patty was scared but without a job and with three children, she couldn’t leave.

One night after a particularly brutal incident, she ran out of the house and went to get help from her friend. She decided to make a police report against Tom.

The police told her that Tom would be remanded.

When her father-in-law found out about the police report, he asked Patty to forgive his son and withdraw the report. She relented and for a few months, things were calmer at home. But once Tom forgot about the police report, he behaved just as violently.

While on drugs, he used to lock his children in a room and threaten to kill them. Once, he tried to set off firecrackers inside a room. Another time, he blocked the bedroom door by nailing it shut, preventing Patty from running out.

“No one did anything, not even my father-in-law!” Patty said. “I would take my children and we would live on the streets because we didn’t dare to go home.”

Her sister kept telling her to go to WCC for help and finally, Patty decided enough was enough. She was living in fear all the time.

“I can’t escape from my husband. He knows everyone I know. Wherever I go he will find me. I don’t have the heart to cause trouble for others,” she confessed during the session.

Her fears were put to rest when our social worker informed her of WCC’s temporary shelter.  A week later, after her husband had threatened to kill them by blowing up the gas tank, Patty came to the WCC office with her three children. They were immediately admitted to our shelter.

During their week-long stay, our social worker helped Patty plan her next steps. In Patty’s case, getting the police to take action and getting Interim Protection Orders (IPOs) for herself and her children was important.

Patty’s Investigating Officer  (IO)was hesitant as it seemed there was no evidence of recent physical injuries. Our WCC team supported Patty to arrange for a psychological examination to assess the impact of the abuse. Results revealed that Patty suffered emotional and mental trauma at the hands of Tom.

The medical report provided enough impetus for the IO to investigate and grant Patty and her children IPOs. Tom was charged under Section 506 of the Penal Code (Criminal Intimidation) and was fined RM4,000. Patty and her children were granted Protection Orders upon Tom’s charge and conviction.

With the support of family and friends, Patty and her children have now resettled in another state and she is starting over as a single mother.