When a man steps out of the house, they reach for their phone that’s probably running on low-battery, their wallet and keys.
When a woman steps out of the house, they reach for pepper spray, a switch knife, emergency whistle and a phone running on full battery just in case they need a friend to stay on the call while they’re in a stranger’s car.
Men leave their houses praying they didn’t leave the AC on.
Women leave their houses praying that they’ll be able to return home safe again.
The dichotomy of our lived experiences is apparent in our day-to-day yet there are still people denying our danger.
As an example, stalking is common in Malaysia yet the act itself is not recognised as a crime. Since there is no legal protection for women who are being stalked, most do not even go to the police to file a report. Instead, we’re left to our own devices.
While women can write multiple think pieces about the red flags in a man that signals future harmful behaviour as well as warn each other of other men that have showed dangerous habits in the past, this acts as only a thin veil of protection against these perpetrators.
There needs to be change in the system itself for women to feel fully protected and safe when we leave our houses.
In light of the news regarding Krishna, a 31-year-old woman whose children, aged 6 and 8, had to watch her as she was being stabbed to death by her alleged boyfriend, a former EXCO Member of Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) penned a harrowing open letter about her own experience with stalking and domestic violence.
She calls for prioritisation on the Anti-Stalking Act so none of us will suffer the same fate as Krishna.
Below is her letter in full.
Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions belong to the writer of the letter with minimal editing from JUICE.
When I first read the news on Krishna, a 31-year-old woman who was stabbed to death by her alleged 23-year-old boyfriend at her home in Ipoh, it struck a chord deep within me. It was a familiar fear.
More than 20 years ago, fresh from graduation, I was in a relationship with a man I had met in the most innocent place on earth – a library! As a young woman, ready to explore the world, having someone love you unconditionally seemed like one of the greatest joys in life. The freedom to make your own choices – of who you decide to date, and eventually be in a relationship with – felt empowering for 23-year old me.
I had just secured my first job, one that I was proud of as I had beat out many candidates, I was told. Back in 1999, getting a salary of RM2,300 was quite a benchmark – as was graduating with a First Class Honours from a prestigious local university. I was also travelling the world in my line of work – from the Philippines to India and even to the United States of America – oftentimes on Business Class. I was hopeful and full of potential.
Everything seemed just perfect.
And then things took a turn. Almost every day before lunch hour, my boyfriend would call me up and insist that we lunch together. When I requested to lunch with my colleagues, it was often disregarded – I thought, perhaps he really loves me and wants to spend time with me.
When I was travelling in the Philippines for work, he would call to ensure that I didn’t leave the hotel for dinner (even if it was with a colleague). Instead, he would instead insist that I order room service. He’d inform me of the ‘people’ he knew in the Philippines who’d be ‘watching over me’. The voice in my head thought (with a little fear this time) – perhaps he really cares for my safety as it can be dangerous to be alone in a foreign country.
I wanted to believe that these were acts of love.
Less than a year into my dream job, I was pressured to resign. I was told his family business needed me, and was whisked off to a different state, far away from my home.
That was when the nightmare began. The abuse became physical and violent, but I had nowhere to turn to. I had no friends to confide in and he would often ‘guard over’ the calls I made to my parents. I was left with no money too, thus depended on him greatly. He did not ‘allow’ me to go home to see my parents and when I did, I had to wear long sleeved tops to hide my bruises.
During one of our altercations, in defence I had swung my arm so hard that it dislocated. He and his sister took me to the emergency unit to get the ball of my arm bone back to my shoulder socket. I was on a sling for weeks and had asked to return home to see my parents which he ‘permitted’ me to. I met my parents briefly but was quickly taken to his rented home and stayed there. My family were told that I was returning to his hometown.
At my lowest point, unable to bear the abuse and in a desperate need to escape, I attempted suicide. My recollection of what happened after is hazy but I clearly remember a nurse making me feel guilty by telling me how silly I was and that I could be jailed.
Finally, one day, as he went out to buy lunch, I realised it was my best chance to escape. It felt like now or never. I called my brother and informed him where I was. The moment my family came to rescue me was my first taste of freedom in 9 months.
Days after that continued to be challenging. Police reports were made against illegal possession of my car which he’d taken away and also for ‘access’ to his house to collect my personal belongings accompanied by the police. Yet, he would still continue to stalk and harass me. I was always fearful of his presence and intimidation tactics.
“I will kill you and your entire family,” was the threat made at my gate months after I escaped, still rings in my ear. He told me about his underworld links and constantly shared stories of his ‘brothers’ who were shot by rival gangs. I was traumatised and vividly remembered one episode in which I was afraid of being tailed by him that I walked with a knife in my hand.
The thought of being stalked and him lurking around wherever I went, was terrifying. But, in Malaysia, stalking is not a crime. There was nothing I could do about it, so I lived in fear for a long time, not knowing how to protect myself.
Malaysia’s Domestic Violence Act 1994 provides for restraining orders against abusers who are a current or former spouse but does not extend to unmarried couples and most certainly does not protect us from stalking and harassment.
Stalking is an extremely harmful and obsessive behaviour that disrupted my life and made me feel very unsafe even in public spaces.
No woman should be forced to carry a knife to protect herself as I did. The need for an Anti-Stalking Act is now.
And, awareness on stalking is more crucial than ever.
Despite the lack of legal protection, I count my blessings that I am still alive. I could have very easily shared the same, painful, fate as Krishna.
For those who are distressed and in need of help, contact the following hotlines:
3. WOMEN’S CENTRE FOR CHANGE PENANG (WCC PENANG)
Operating hours: Weekdays (9am – 5pm)
Contact: +604-2280342 | +604-3988340
WhatsApp: +6011-31084001 | +6016-4390698
Email: [email protected]
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