SINGAPORE - "You don't deserve to be a mother to my kids. You have always put your career over family."
This is what Ms Carrie Tan's ex-husband spat out in a quarrel they had when they were still married.
While some may consider it words spoken in anger, the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) warns that this can be considered abuse.
Ms Sheena Kanwar, the support services manager at Aware, says: "If your partner is constantly putting you down, calling you names, making you feel bad about yourself and making you feel guilty and responsible for his behaviour, it is a sign of emotional abuse.
"It is a common misconception that abuse means only physical abuse. Whereas, in fact, many a time, abuse may be perpetrated through verbal, emotional and psychological manipulation and intimidation."
"This kind of abuse is more difficult to put one's finger on, but actually has long-term effects on the survivor's sense of self and dignity."
Ms Tan, 31, tells more of her story: "He would tell me not to overestimate my intelligence just because I was from a good school."
"After a while, I believed what he said. I started to think I wasn't smart enough and that I wasn't going to be a good mother."
"Even though I had always been strong and independent, doubts started to creep in," she adds.
"And he hardly felt remorseful after these personal attacks. He never apologised."
She didn't think of it seriously until it culminated in a violent incident when they were on a business trip in Hong Kong.
"We were quarrelling again and he pinned me down and slapped me 10 times," recalls Ms Tan, tears welling up in her eyes.
"It was only after this incident and when I was contemplating an annulment did I realise his behaviour had shown a pattern of abuse, from emotional, to verbal and eventually physical abuse."
Ms Kanwar says actual physical violence usually occurs after a period of verbal, emotional and psychological abuse has taken place. Ms Tan adds: "I realised, on hindsight, that the reasons why I had been so ready to believe my ex-husband were my self-esteem issues that I have had since young."
After the annulment, Ms Tan founded Daughters of Tomorrow, a social enterprise which focuses on empowering and educating women in Third World countries.
Daughters of Tomorrow has organised a "Real Women, Real Conversations 2013" forum, which takes place next Sunday. Since her experience, Ms Tan felt that she had to move the issue of emotional abuse and unhealthy, destructive relationships to the forefront.
She hopes mothers and daughters will come together at the forum to discuss self-esteem issues, relationships, and self-empowerment.
Ms Kanwar says: "It encourages mothers and daughters to attend the forum to discuss self-esteem issues, relationships, and self-empowerment amongst other things.
"So, I hope this forum help mothers and their daughters with any self-esteem or body image issue so that they are more likely to be empowered in future relationships," she says.
Also attending the forum will be Ms Aisyah Jumari, 29, the founder of Simply Sinless Creams, a cupcake-baking workshop for women. She too had been involved in an unhealthy relationship.
Her ex-boyfriend often called her names like "slut" - sometime even in front of his own family.
"It was degrading and I was embarrassed. There were times I would even feel at fault," says Ms Aisyah.
She adds that he would not allow her to go out with her friends, and would assume that she was cheating if he caught her sending text messages.
"The last straw came when he shouted at me at an MRT station and started calling me names," she says.
Ms Aisyah, whose cupcake-baking workshop is also an avenue for women to talk about their problems, says while arguments between couples were common, "it is wrong and destructive if your partner is constantly trying to put you down with personal attacks, and is turning you against your beliefs".
What: Real Women, Real Conversations 2013
Date: June 2
Time: 1pm to 7pm
Admission: $50 per pax
Venue: School Of Thought Auditorium , 222, Queen Street
If you know someone who is being abused,
- Listen to her
- Help her make a safety plan
- Inform her of the various resources
- Encourage her to seek help and patiently wait for her to take the first step
Don't downplay the danger.
Don't judge or criticise her decision even if it means she isn't ready to do something about it.
Don't try to solve her problems and insist that she should do what you say If you know someone who is abusive:
Tell him that nothing justifies his violent behaviour
Tell him that his actions bother you
Tell the couple that you care about them and urge them to seek help
Don't agree with any excuses he or she makes for the violence
If you know someone who is abusive:
• Tell him that nothing justifies his violent behaviour
• Tell him that his actions bother you
• Tell the couple that you care about them and urge them to seek help
• Don't agree with any excuses he or she makes for the violence
• Aware helpline
Monday to Friday
3pm - 9.30pm
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