KUALA LUMPUR - Domestic violence will continue to happen as long as the victims are reluctant to seek justice for themselves, said Mrs Universe 2013 Carol Lee.
She said many women were embarrassed to come forward to report such cases, especially in the rural areas because of the stigma attached to domestic violence. They will rather sweep the problem under the carpet and pretend that all is well.
Lee, the first Asian to win the Mrs Universe crown, believes the abuse will stop only when victims become proactive about their welfare.
"Some women love their spouses too much and refuse to report domestic violence.
"They assume, over time, the abuse will stop.
"But the abuse will only stop when the victim takes the first step of finding a solution to end the abuse," said Lee, who is working on a nationwide campaign against domestic violence with All Women's Action Society (Awam).
The campaign is funded by KL Sogo.
The theme of the Mrs Universe 2013 pageant was "Stop Domestic Violence".
Its finals was held at The Westin Aruba Resort in Palm Beach, the Caribbean on Aug 11.
The news presenter and former talk show host beat 32 contestants to clinch the title.
She also won the subsidiary title, Mrs Popularity.
Lee said her involvement with the campaign started last October.
Besides preparing physically for the pageant, she had to know about domestic violence in Malaysia.
"At the finals, we had to participate in a forum on domestic violence and the top three finalists were chosen by how well they performed.
"When I first started with Awam, I was clueless what domestic violence was.
"Eventually, I learned about the many types of abuse and the Domestic Violence Act 2011.
"We embarked on a five-state tour to speak at meetings, forums and also to victims.
"The tour was where I learned the most about domestic violence."
On winning the Mrs Universe 2013 pageant, Lee said life now was not all about glitz and glamour.
Luckily for her, the pageant's schedule is not punishing as family life is always given top priority and her travels for her mission to tackle domestic violence are scheduled around dates that are suitable for her.
"My goal is to spread the word on domestic violence.
"It will stop after I crown my successor next year.
"My first love is working with children.
"However, domestic violence is an issue I am passionate about.
"The mindset of women in abusive relationships must change because every time they are abused, they tend to blame themselves and assume that the abuse took place because they had done something wrong."
Lee has her work cut out for her where domestic violence issues are concerned.
"There is a rise in domestic violence cases reported in Malaysia because of awareness and women knowing their rights.
"But the sad thing is women in rural areas are still behind in finding help and justice because of the stigma attached to domestic violence."
Lee, who turned 40 last week, said the Mrs Universe 2013 pageant was the last pageant she participated in.
"I participated in two beauty pageants in the past. The first was when I was in college and the other, in 1996, where I fared badly because I was not prepared."
In the 1996 Miss Chinese International held in Hong Kong and emceed by actress Dodo Cheng, Lee got the questions mixed up and regretted taking part in the competition.
The question she was asked was about whales and the answer she gave Cheng was on veils that were used by some ancient tribes in China.
"I didn't want to repeat that mistake at the Mrs Universe 2013 pageant.
"I worked hard to get everything right this time and it paid off."
Besides being a public speaker and emcee, Lee runs Starz Studio, a child development and learning centre.
Prior to becoming a newscaster and morning talk show host with RTM2, Lee was a model and kindergarten teacher.
She subsequently enrolled for a degree programme in management and marketing with a private college.
"I was the only student in my class who was in the late 20s. The others were a decade younger than me."
Her love for children also saw her setting up Starz Studio.
Apart from her emceeing work, Lee is working on a coffee-table book on an animal shelter for charity, working with the police to make Mont Kiara a safer place as she is its Joint Management Committee chairman of the condominium where she lives in.
She also conducts beauty pageants for girls and boys.
"In the pageants that I have organised, all the participants were winners and were crowned by their parents.
"Why discriminate against children and destroy their self-esteem and confidence?
"For me, as long as both the children and parents are happy, that's what matters most."
Lee said she spent as much time as possible with her husband and daughter.
"When I travel, he looks after our daughter.
"My husband is happiest being in the background and letting me take the spotlight.
"My family are my biggest supporters."