SINGAPORE - The first year after she walked out on her marriage was the lowest point in her life, says Madam Lim. We are not using her full name to protect her identity.
She recalls "the agony and the trauma" of having to start life afresh, which included trying to find a job to make ends meet. Madam Lim was a victim of abuse. Her ex-husband routinely forced her to have sex.
It was years before she finally left him. Not least because many were incredulous when she said that he raped her. They simply didn't understand that a married woman can refuse to have sex.
"Friends, even my own mother, told me that there was no such thing as a husband raping his wife. Some even asked me why I bothered to get married if I hated to have sex," she tells The New Paper on Sunday.
"But even though living with a monster who raped me was a life of hell, for a while, I thought it was better than living without any financial stability.
"I was lucky that I had a few good friends and counsellors who supported me. Had it not been for them, I don't think I could have walked out of this low point in my life."
Madam Lim, 36, and her son, who turns six next month, now live with her mother.
"It took me so long before I could accept my little baby and start to love him," she says of the child, who is sitting quietly in a corner of the four-room HDB flat, playing with his handheld game.
She looks in his direction, then says: "I struggled for so long, trying to decide if I wanted to keep a child, who was conceived in rape, with me."
During her first interview with this newspaper in 2007, Madam Lim did not behave like the typical mum. The chilly distance she set up between her and the then five-month-old baby was apparent.
She hardly looked at him and did not pick him up, not even when he cried.
The baby was the result of one of those forced trysts, where her then-husband of six years would force himself on her.
They had courted for two years before marrying.
Madam Lim had confessed that she felt hatred and shame over the marital rape - and that the baby was a constant reminder of that.
She had been raped even though she had a personal protection order from a court to stop her ex-husband's sexual assaults.
She recalls those days when she continued to live with him and share the same bed: "I really loved my husband despite the rapes. I just didn't enjoy the sex".
As a clerk, she didn't earn much. "I was frightened of living life alone. Really terrified by the thought of it. I didn't want to walk out of my comfort zone."
It got worse when she lost her job - she had been taking medical leave constantly and not turning up at work on occasions because she suffered from depression.
"After I lost my job, I became even more unwilling to leave him.
"He also threatened to cut off all allowances."
Her ex-husband, who is 10 years older than her, runs a provision store. Madam Lim remains grateful to her former counsellor.
"If not for her, I would not have taken the steps to rebuild my life. Even when she left and passed my case on to another counsellor, she'd still keep in touch with me to see how I was faring."
Finally filed for divorce
She filed for divorce in 2010.
"I just didn't enjoy sex. If I had a choice, I'd avoid it completely. It was very difficult for me. I'd feel so tense before it and depressed after," she recalls.
Madam Lim's aversion to sex took a toll on her relationship with her ex-husband, whom she says was otherwise "not a bad person". "It's just that after a while, he got mad whenever I refused to have sex."
She shares that during their marriage, he had a fling with one of his workers.
"In some ways, I couldn't really blame him. I was the one who pushed him away."
It was during one such confrontation that things got out of hand and Madam Lim's ex-husband turned violent.
She recalls: "We were shouting and calling each other all kinds of ugly names, and then I called him a sex pervert.
"I could see the fury in his eyes and for a moment, I thought he'd kill me."
"I tried to run away, but he grabbed my hair and the next thing I knew, his fist was in my mouth."
He broke two of her teeth with one punch.
"I think he was stunned when he realised what he had done, and he kept saying he was sorry."
Two months later, he came home one night and told her that he'd let her go.
Madam Lim says: "Happy and relieved as I was, it took me another month before I actually did anything.
"I wasn't confident I could survive financially without him."
"Failure as a wife"
"Failure as a wife"
It didn't help that her mother back then had insisted it was her fault for "failing to do my duty as a wife".
"My mother is the traditional type who believed that a woman's place was at home, taking care of her husband and children," says Madam Lim.
She now works as an accounts clerk and has recently started on a new relationship, but declines to give more details. "I want to take it one step at a time."
She knows that her ex-husband also has another woman in his life.
"We don't talk to each other unless it's necessary, like when he comes to pick up our son for weekly visits.
"But I can see a hint of the man I fell in love with and I know it means he's happy."
She adds: "And because of this, I can finally let go of my guilty feelings."
13% of men* think woman who are raped ‘asked for it’
29% of men think women do make false rape claims
21% of men think women say ‘no’ to sex when they mean ‘yes’
*aged 18 to 29
Figures taken from a recent survey by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) of 1,322 people, which show rape myths prevalent among men aged 18 to 29.
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