Coming to grips with domestic violence

KUALA LUMPUR June 2 – Hidayah (not her real name) feels her life is a waking nightmare.

Her husband is in Labuan and she and her son have been stuck in her parents’ house in Seremban ever since the Movement Control Order was enforced in March.

Staying under the same roof as her parents and siblings does not sound like a bad deal but, unbeknown to others, her 48-year-old father is a monster who has been abusing her sexually and emotionally since she was seven years old.

Hidayah, who is now 24 and is four months pregnant with her second child, claimed that her drug addict and jobless father also abuses her mother and five younger siblings who live in the same house. Worse still, her son – who is only sixteen months old – has also not been spared.

“You won’t believe it but he told me he can offer sex services to his own grandson,” she told Bernama, adding that her whole family also has to put up with the string of insults he hurls at them all day.

Claiming that she was molested by her father twice when she was 17 years old, Hidayah said she has been beaten by her father so many times that it has left her with bruises on her head, hands, abdomen, forehead and lips.

“He uses a stick, iron rod or chair to beat me,” she said, adding that she can leave her home to be with her husband if she wanted to but she was worried what her father would do to her family members.


Hidayah’s horrific experience and the atrocious behaviour of her father constitute a typical case of domestic abuse, which is defined as a pattern of incidents of controlling, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour – including sexual violence – by a spouse or partner and even a family member or carer. In most cases, it is experienced by women and perpetrated by men.

Intimate terrorism is a common pattern of abuse where the violence is one-sided and the man controls his wife or partner or family member in various ways.

Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris Counselling Centre director Dr Fauziah Mohd Saad said in intimate terrorism, the abuser exerts control over his victim by using physical violence, as well as through verbal, emotional, economical and sexual abuse.

“Being obsessed with one’s partner can lead to extreme jealousy which can cause a person to resort to violence (to supposedly subdue his partner). Their violent tendencies include slapping and grabbing their partner and even pinching and biting them and forcing them to have sex,” she said.

Dr Meriam Omar Din, an expert in psychotherapy and counselling, said abusers may have a history of being abused when they were young.

“Exhibiting violent behaviour is not a natural attribute. People learn to be violent from other ‘role models’ who may be present in their own families. Or they themselves may have been abused, especially during their childhood.

“Stress may be a contributing factor (to domestic violence) but, remember, a person’s violent and abusive ways are already ingrained in him,” she explained.


Fauziah said since abusive people are usually hot-tempered, it is best that their spouse or family members refrain from provoking them or irritating them.

“All they need is something to trigger their anger, so don’t nag them… instead, talk to them nicely.

“Also, don’t fight in front of the children as such fights can have a significant impact on them. If the father resorts to violence, the children too will do the same when they grow up,” she added.

Urging individuals who show aggressive tendencies to seek the help of a counsellor, Fauziah said by getting them to take a psychometric test, the expert can determine their mental health state.

“If their mental health is in a bad state, they will be referred to a psychiatrist for treatment to control their aggressive behaviour,” she said.

She also urged the public to report to the authorities if they suspect any case of domestic violence in their neighbourhood.

Commenting on the reluctance of some women to lodge a complaint against their aggressive spouses, Meriam said the victim should by right have a strategy or seek the help of a neighbour or friend to flee their home if they are repeatedly abused.

If the victim does not save herself, she will end up with psychological scars as well and low self-esteem.

“(If the victim is still young) she may become an abuser herself when she becomes an adult and has control over other people,” she added.



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