The scariest thing about abusive situations is that sometimes, we don’t realise we’re caught in one until we’re struggling to get out. Even then, we chide ourselves for being dramatic, and think that no one would believe us if we tried to talk.
Here are the abuse stories of five Singaporean individuals, male and female. Most, unfortunately, may not even be of legal age at the time this is published. They could be the girl beside you on the bus, that boy who keeps falling asleep in your lecture hall, your cousin or even your little sister.
I ask that whenever we ask someone “How are you?”, that we stay for long enough to hear the reply. And I ask that for those of us who feel trapped, that we begin to look for ways to tell our stories.
*Trigger Warning: Stories of rape, physical and emotional abuse, and sexual assault. Identities have been kept anonymous to protect the victims.
1. Do It If You Love Me
It wasn’t always a “frikkin’ Taiwanese drama series”.
The whole “you’d do it if you love me” thing is kinda sweet if like, he’s coaxing me to eat dinner because he cared. But it’s not so sweet if he’s making me do stripteases for him on Skype and insinuating that “I just don’t love him enough” if I don’t want to do it.
Eventually he was making me put things inside myself so that he could watch. I was 14, and I thought I had to do this because, people do things to make those they love happy right?
It’s easy to say, “Why the hell wouldn’t anyone get out of that shit?” I say that too. But when it’s good, it is so good, and when it’s bad you convince yourself that neither of you are this insecure or psycho or violent or sensitive.
I justified the emotional blackmail, the derogatory remarks, the slut-shaming. At 3am, when he’s screaming at me on the phone for being a b**ch who is probably f**king someone else instead of picking up his call, I convinced myself that his anger came from worry – it was my fault that I didn’t text to say I was home.
I normalised his tantrums, his verbal abuse and I justified it all. Right up to the point where he had my arms pinned, forcing himself inside me, and asked me why I was crying and saying no.
“Don’t you love me?” He said.
So I squeezed my eyes shut and I blocked it out by listing all the reasons this was actually my fault. Because I was 16, and I loved him.
–English Teacher, Female, 20+
2. Gang-raped In School
I was in a neighbourhood school near where we used to live in Bukit Batok. I didn’t really fit in with the mostly Singaporean Chinese demographic.
It happened just before the end of recess. I came back to the empty classroom, and there was a group of about seven boys, maybe one or two girls, most of whom were my classmates.
They pinned me to the floor and gang-raped me until the school bell rang. And they laughed because I was crying when they said it was “just for fun”.
No one spoke up, not even the girls. No one believed an eleven year old boy could be the victim of an act like this, committed by schoolmates who were around the same age.
We were told taking drastic measures at that age would ruin them unnecessarily because they had already (as far as the school was concerned), been dealt with. I guess they didn’t think about the boy that was also ruined, unnecessarily.
It’s been years and I still feel so dirty every time intimacy comes up with my girlfriend.
– SAF Paramedic, Male, 27
3. Scrubbing The Shame Away
I was raised in a very strict conservative family, especially for Singapore. My mother would call me a slut because my school pinafore length ended at my knee (she expected it to be below my knees). Yep, that kind of conservative family.
One evening, after one of those ‘Learning Journeys’ that the school took us on to Little India, I ended up at home later than usual.
I missed dinner, that was it. They knew it was a school excursion, but by their reasoning, if the excursion finished at 6pm, I should be home by 6.30pm.
I was home at 8pm. Traffic coming back from Little India at 6pm? I didn’t even reach school until 6.30/ 6.45pm. I admit, I wasn’t rushing but I didn’t go out gallivanting.
My father was in the room and my mother was waiting for me. She saw the henna on my hand that I had just done during the school trip, and she didn’t say anything.
Maybe it was because I was already home late, and maybe in her head there was a rule about us having henna that I didn’t know about, even though it’s in our culture. I really don’t know to this day.
She grabbed my hair and pulled me into the toilet. Then she made me kneel on the floor and hold out my hands while she poured soap and bleach on my hands and tried to scrub at my hands with a scouring sponge – but the henna wasn’t coming off.
So my mum went to the kitchen and came back with the kettle, filled with water that had just been boiled. I remember screaming, and crying, and trying to get away. My mom slapped me so hard I stopped screaming, then she handed me the scouring sponge.
She watched me scrub and scrub and scrub, until my hands burnt and the skin peeled off. She made me scrub until it was all gone.
– Civil Servant, Female, 36
4. Pregnant In Secondary School
My boyfriend made plans to send me up to JB with a friend to get an abortion. I didn’t think I had much of a say. A counselling place made us watch abortion videos there and that made us decide to keep it.
One evening, he stopped replying my messages while out late clubbing. He never came home. Some time before 6am, he picked up the phone – he said he had been sleeping at home the whole time.
He said I was being psycho and crazy for not trusting him just because he forgot to text me. Of course, he had no idea that I had been waiting outside his flat since 11pm the night before.
When he found out, he quickly went from being upset and “remorseful” to being furious. He yelled at me for having forced the truth out of him and slammed down the phone.
Six months pregnant with his son at that time, when my boyfriend saw me, he lunged at me and started hurling punches at my head, face, neck and back. He even tried to kick me and the baby, when his friends pulled him off just in time.
There were bruises on me, on my arms and around my neck. My parents never asked but I’m sure they knew.
After all these years I haven’t decided which is worse – that the father of my unborn child would cheat on me and then beat me up afterwards in public and try and kill the baby, or that my parents still insisted that we get engaged.
At the end of the day, we’re Chinese right? So to them, what was worse than being beaten up by my boyfriend, was probably their oldest daughter ending up being a single teenage mother.
– University Graduate, Female, 25
5. Kept In A Cage For 10 Years
As a child and into his teens, my son was often aggressive and violent. I didn’t teach him to do that – I call him the Devil’s Spawn because only the Devil’s Spawn would behave like that to his own mother.
His last outburst was when he beat me unconscious, before he was finally warded at The Institute Of Mental Health (formerly known as Woodbridge Hospital). He was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and began medication.
When he was stable enough to leave, he moved back home. He had a part-time job, and he would come back for dinner. But I was always scared that it would be like last time – I never knew what could set him off.
He didn’t hit me anymore, but I felt like I was taking a risk. All of his jobs never lasted long, because he would make stupid little mistakes and get fired. I thought it would be better he stayed at home and only goes out with me.
So I made sure I gave him his own space, an area inside the kitchen, so he couldn’t come out and beat me during one of his ‘episodes’.
I put a gate there, and locked it.
There is space inside there for him and our flat is small, it would have been inconvenient to share one room. If he needed food, I would buy and bring it home. When I’m out, he stays inside and I lock his gate – I cannot take him with me everywhere, he is 30 years old and can look after himself.
It’s not like he has anywhere to go anyway.
I know people say I’m being cold-hearted, locking my own son in a caged area. But after what that Devil’s Spawn has done to me, he should be grateful I even bother looking after him now.
In fact, he was recently accepted into some mental health rehabilitation centre and had started living there. But I know my son – I know the kind of food he likes to eat, and I know how to look after him best because I love him. So I brought him back to live with me.
Even if it looks like he lives in a caged area to outsiders, at the end of the day, I buy him food and he has a place to sleep. That’s more than enough already.
– Teacher, Female, 63
These encounters have been from those who have been abused, and those who aren’t even aware that they’re causes of abuse. Most of us would wonder about the kind of person who could do such unspeakable things to someone they love.
Except, from some angles, it might be the only way they know how to express their love.
Whether the abuse is sexual, physical, psychological or emotional, the only thing they have on us, is fear. Tell your story, because these people shouldn’t be allowed to get away with what they’ve done.
If you, or anyone you know has suffered from or is suffering from any kind of abuse, please seek help by getting in touch with AWARE by dropping into the Care Centre or via telephone – services are offered at affordable rates.