When I first met Shidah during my clinic duty some time in December last year, her case wasn’t referred to me by SN or the doctor because she had been a patient there for more than 2 years. Usually SN would only refer new cases, or, even if they were old cases, SN would only refer the ones she knew were problematic, especially single mothers with financial constraints.
In Shidah’s case, she didn’t have any children, and neither did she mention anything to SN about her problems at home.
It was only when she was given counselling by the pharmacist on her antiretroviral that she somehow mentioned about being beaten up by her husband at home. The pharmacist immediately told her to see me as we were sharing the same room.
During that meet, I gave her not only my number, but also the number of a friend of mine in Perak Women for Women (PWW). PWW handles quite a lot of these cases so they should know better what to do.
Shidah never called. And the one time that I called her, she said she was okay.
I did get missed calls from her once, but when I returned call, nobody answered. I figured maybe she didn’t dare answer because her husband was around when I returned call.
2 days ago Shidah called. She said she was beaten up again and she wanted to see me at the hospital on Wednesday (today).
I wasn’t on clinic duty today but since the only chance for me to meet Shidah is at the hospital, I decided to go. Coincidentally, a trainee volunteer who happened to be free, asked if I was on clinic duty as she’d like to join. Although we don’t usually handle domestic violence cases, I figured it would be good exposure for her, so yep, I told her to join me at the clinic to meet Shidah.
Shidah asked to meet up at 10 am, and so although I got to the hospital 15 minutes early, I didn’t dare call as I was afraid she may still be with her husband. I waited until about 10.10 am before I called. Shidah was already at the hospital, but was still waiting to get her blood test done. I told her I’d wait in the same room where we spoke the last time.
The moment she saw me, she held and kissed my hands. She didn’t look like someone who had been abused, which was probably why earlier on SN or the doctor at the HIV clinic never knew about her problems.
I asked her how bad she was beaten up this time. She showed me some marks below her knee. It seems Shidah couldn’t take it any longer and asked her husband to allow her to go back to her home country. That got the husband mad and he ended up hitting her again. However I think this time he used his hands to hit her, the marks didn’t look too bad. Shidah had shown me photos of her bruises when she was beaten up earlier. The husband must have used some hard objects to hit her with back then…
However, earlier on Shidah never went to get any medical report. She didn’t have anyone here she could depend on and she didn’t know who to talk to or where to go. Worse, her husband held her passport, and so she didn’t even dare lodge a police report although her own mother-in-law advised her to do so.
Apparently, of late, Shidah doesn’t even have access to her handphone. She only gets to hold the phone when she goes to the hospital. Her husband would send her to the hospital and she’d use the phone to call her husband to fetch her once she’s done.
So how did she manage to call me on Monday?
“Saya curi talipon. Lepas tu saya delete nombor kakak.”
Oh dear. So now I can no longer call that number either as her husband may suspect something.
Anyway, I tried to get the friend from PWW to join me at the hospital to meet and talk to Shidah, but the friend already had an earlier appointment, to bring another lady in distress to the legal aid bureau. She however did advise me to tell Shidah to lodge a police report. However, she did also warn me that being a foreigner, Shidah may not be covered by the Domestic Violence Act.
I asked the doctor at the HIV clinic, she advised me to bring her to the pondok polis at the hospital, after which she should get a medical report from a doctor at the emergency department.
I then explained the situation to Shidah. However, for someone who had never handled such cases before, I couldn’t give a guarantee to Shidah she’d be safe from her husband. I ‘ve heard of a case where after lodging a report about her husband abusing her, a lady was sent back home and the husband was only “advised” not to beat up the wife any more. As a result, the situation turned worse.
Shidah was afraid her husband would beat her up even more if he finds out she went to lodge a police report. And being a foreigner who doesn’t have access to her own passport, it was worse still. If she had access to her passport, all I had to do was to get help to finance her ticket to go back home. Without her passport, she’d probably be detained. The only document Shidah has with her is her kad nikah, and so if she gets caught, the authorities will probably get hold of her husband and “return” her back to him.
We were ready to accompany her today if Shidah decided to lodge a police report but in the end Shidah decided against it. She wasn’t ready. We’d have to plan something before her next hospital appointment which is in 2 month time. I asked if she was willing to wait that long.
But how was I supposed to contact her if her husband controls the phone?
“Saya ada sorok talipon lain. Suami saya tak tau. Simcard saya simpan tempat lain.”
Great, at least there’s a way for me to contact her. She gave me the phone number and told me the best time to call. However, I told her to make sure the phone is only on when her husband is not around. And I also told her to immediately call me if things get worse, or if she finally decides to lodge the police report before the next hospital appointment.
Tomorrow I’ll be meeting up with the friend from PWW to discuss the best possible cause of action. Somebody advised me to get confirmation from the embassy about Shidah’s citizenship before proceeding with the police report.
Whatever it is, we need to use the right strategy to make sure Shidah doesn’t end up on the losing end. We don’t want the husband to twist and turn stories to his advantage…