Woman who suffered 20-year abusive relationship reveals how she got out

PHOTO: Woman who suffered 20-year abusive relationship reveals how she got out

SINGAPORE - Women in abusive relationships are in the news again.

On Tuesday, Muhammad Idham Johari was sentenced to eight years in jail and 12 strokes of the cane for voluntarily hurting his ex-girlfriend and other offences.

He had stabbed her chest twice. He also hit her daily in the five months they were together. Despite breaking up several times, they had always reconciled.

Some women find it hard to get out of abusive relationships.

In an e-mail interview with The New Paper on Sunday a woman talks of being in an abusive marriage for 20 years. We are not naming her to protect her identity as she is still married to her abusive husband.

The woman, who is in the education industry, claims to have been physically and mentally tortured, including being burnt with an iron - scars she has to hide with long sleeves.

Her husband has cheated on her with his ex-girlfriend but is incredibly jealous of any man she talks to. Yet despite all that, she chooses to remain married to him.

Why are you still with your abusive husband?

I love him. I believe he will change one day and stop hitting me. I believe God will help him change.

I have never tried to leave him. I take marriage very seriously. It is a commitment that I have made to him in front of God. I have made my choice and I will stick by it.

How did you two meet?

We were schoolmates. We met again after we left school. We dated for a few months before we got married. Looking back, maybe I should have dated him longer.

When did his affair start?

A month after we got married. It went on for almost a year. But I forgave him because I love him and I don't believe in divorce.

When did the abuse start?

Almost immediately. He still hurls vulgarities at me in front of my family.

I don't seek help because I don't want to burden my family or friends.

He swears at me whenever he is unhappy about something. I'm always embarrassed to introduce him to people I know.

How often does he abuse you and to what extent?

Almost once per week. He hits me whenever he feels stressed with work. He has his own business and does not manage stress very well. The worst he did to me was to burn me with the iron.

What is a typical day like?

He drives me to school in the morning. Throughout the day, he asks me what I'm doing. He then picks me up after school and checks my SMSes and e-mails.

I don't answer any calls when I'm with him because he would keep asking me who I'm speaking to. Sometimes, my students call me but they can't reach me as I don't want to answer calls when I'm with him.

Are there times when he is more loving towards you?

He buys me little gifts and cooks for me. He takes me on surprise holidays. He likes to spring surprises. He says nice things to me and makes me feel special.

What is your health like after the 20 years of abuse?

I am thin and frail. Lack of sleep makes me very tired.

I suspect he has a mental illness, especially after I spoke to a counsellor friend. She advised me to get him evaluated but it's difficult for me to suggest it to him.

Anyway, I'm already used to the way he treats me.

Does your family know he is abusing you?

They suspect that things are not good but I hide the fact that I'm suffering. I don't want to burden them with my problem.

Don't you want children?

I'm always on the pill. I don't want to have a child. I fear that if he gets irritated by the child, he would harm him or her. I will suffer alone. I don't want to bring another person into the world to suffer with me.

I noticed that he is calmer around dogs so I got one to keep us company. It is like the child we will never have.

Do you plan to change your life?

I believe that God will change him for the better one day. I believe in miracles.

chaihyn@sph.com.sg

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