I am a young immigrant housewife in Malaysia and this is my story.
I had a very happy childhood, full of love and joy. I was the golden child, and my family spoiled me terribly. I grew up with family members surrounding me, and we were always a close bunch.
I travelled a lot when I was younger, partied hard, and lived a fulfilling life – until my father, whom I was close to, passed away.
I think that’s when I developed “daddy issues” – the classic Electra complex psychologists always talk about. I also had a type – I love tall men (being short woman myself) who are strong and determined.
I eventually met a man who seemed to fit the checklist.
I was very young when I met my husband. He was a decade older than me. We married in my country of origin, and I was brought here to Malaysia when I was pregnant with our first child.
It was then when the horror began.
He became terribly abusive. He would promise me, “I’ll divorce you and you’ll never see your children again.” This happened several times a week, sometimes with his fists slamming into my body.
I learnt to lie, because every time I disobeyed him, I was certain I would die. I was not allowed out at all. I was not allowed friends either, so I had little in the way of company. I went for classes instead, because I was so lonely and needed friendly chatter around me.
I learned how to bake and sew and embroider. My children were all I had to keep me company through the long and dreary days, and I dreaded the times I was forced to be around him. After all, the only family and friends I had were his.
He’s a complex man, my husband. He could be thoughtlessly generous, but also selfish at the same time. He only thought of himself, not even our children – but he gave us money without reservation.
I feel sorry for him, and I see that he has so much potential to be a better person. I never claimed to be a perfect person either, but I believe that a lot of me was made from what I endured with him.
I turned to drugs to cope with his abuse, namely meth. I could stand up to my husband’s threats when I was on it. That white crystal powder helped me through many terrible situations. When he screamed at me, spit flying into my face, I stood straight and unyielding – silently daring him to do his worst.
However I eventually realised what I was doing to myself and my children. Somehow, by the grace of God, I quit.
There were a lot of times I had the opportunity to leave, but being alone and having nobody, it really does take a toll on you. The decision is not one you can make lightly.
Leaving a toxic relationship is hard enough, and it gets near-impossible when you’re as dependent on your partner as I am.
Another concern is that I don’t speak the languages here the way my children do. The words trip off my tongue clumsily, and my accent marks me as “other”.
I’ve lived here for years, but I’ve yet to be accepted as Malaysian even though it’s now my home.
And as for the other immigrant housewives I’m aware of? They share a similar lifestyle to mine – their local husbands are possessive and we feel that they would never treat a local wife the same way.
But because we are sitting ducks ripe for their bullying, we become victims. Since we come from countries which are significantly behind Malaysia in terms of progressiveness, we are valued as lesser people.
Caught between two worlds and belonging to neither, we can’t afford the indignity of a divorce or a flight back to our home countries without explanation (because even if people did believe us, what could they do?). In my case, I don’t even have Malaysian citizenship, even though my children are Malaysian.
Fortunately, I do have resources backing me if I want to separate from him. Some of my womenfolk aren’t as lucky, and I suppose I’m consenting to this to raise awareness on this issue. Inspired by the articles I had seen on the Internet leading up to International Women’s Day, I would like to inspire someone in turn.
Regardless, I remain optimistic for the future. I still have my children, and they still have me.
*Note: names and minor details changed for safety
For more articles on domestic violence, read The Night My Ex-Boyfriend Almost Killed Me and My Abusive Husband Died in My Arms. Here’s My Story.