Tina’s Journey (A Guide For Discussion)

You are here! > Home >

Tina’s Journey – A Guide for Discussion

[back to menu]
[previous page]
[next page]

Discussion Guide, Question 1: Tina was forced to compromise her economic and financial autonomy

Tina, like many women in Malaysia, was a university graduate capable of financially supporting herself and her family through her full-time job. However, due to societal pressures and expectations imposed on her by her husband, she was coaxed into compromising with a part-time job, despite the fact that it was possible for she and her husband to both work full-time and to hire a sitter to take care of their daughter. This was so she could dedicate more of her time to being a housewife and mother, which confined her to the domestic sphere.

Lack or excess of financial power can create a power imbalance in domestic relationships. Women who compromise their economic independence to be a homemaker, whether by their own choice or not, tend to be financially reliant on their spouses. This makes women more susceptible to power imbalance and abuse in their relationship. Women are more likely to be homemakers, due to gender roles and stereotypes embedded in our culture that believe women belong in the domestic sphere, caring for the home and children, while men are more likely to financially support the family through employment outside the home.

Discussion Guide, Question 2: Tina lacked awareness of marital rape

Tina was coerced into engaging in sexual activity to which she did not consent. There is often a misconception that rape primarily occurs through random attacks in unexpected places with strangers. However, rape often happens within the supposedly safe confines of personal relationships, including the familial, platonic, and romantic. The taboo topic of marital rape, which is still not recognised as a criminal act in Malaysia, must be openly discussed, as it is a prevalent issue. The belief that women are the property of men and their sole purpose is to pleasure their husbands is misogynistic and illustrative of inequality in our society, whereby a woman’s value is inherently less than a man’s.

Discussion Guide, Question 3: Tina felt the stigma of domestic violence and hid the cause of her injury

When Tina suffered an injury after being pushed down the stairs by her abusive husband, she rushed to the hospital. However she was anxious and reluctant to tell her doctor that the injury was due to an intentional act of violence against her. She instead told the hospital that it was an accident, and the doctor didn’t suspect anything unusual.

Like Tina, many domestic violence survivors are hesitant to go to the authorities or tell someone they trust. This may in part be due to perceived stigma and resulting guilt or shame over a ‘failed marriage’. Some domestic violence victims may fear judgment from society, due to the negative and taboo connotations surrounding the topic of domestic violence, and the notion that domestic violence is a ‘family matter’, or even that the violence was the result of some action by the survivor. We as a community must remove the stigma attached to domestic violence by discussing it openly and responding with sensitivity, so that more survivors are empowered to come forward and seek help. Domestic violence is never the survivor’s fault, and it must never be treated as being so.

Discussion Guide, Question 4: Tina was caught in the vicious cycle of violence

After Tina’s husband’s violent episode resulting in her being pushed down the stairs, her husband appeared to be reformed with better intentions. He was full of remorse, buying her flowers and showering her with affection to compensate for his actions. They reconciled and returned to their ‘honeymoon phase’. However, this phase was short-lived and her husband soon reverted back to his old ways. This is common in domestic violence situations and is outlined by the cycle of violence. After a highly charged, intense situation that manifests in physical, verbal or emotional abuse, the abuser apologises and makes excuses, assuring the survivor that it won’t happen again. Things temporarily return to normal and the survivor begins to forget, justify, or minimise the abuse in her head, until the cycle begins again.

Discussion Guide, Question 5: Overly suspicious and controlling behaviour socially isolated Tina

Although the underlying cause of domestic violence is gender inequality resulting in power imbalance, some common triggers include stress, substance abuse, jealousy and suspicion. Tina’s husband was controlling, possessive in his demands of her, and based his actions on unreasonable and irrational assumptions. Domestic violence abusers tend to isolate their victims from their support networks and social circles, confining them to the domestic sphere. This makes the victim feel more trapped and alone, as they are then left with no one to confide in, and seemingly no way to escape the abusive situation.

Discussion Guide, Question 6: Doctor was vigilant in identifying domestic violence 

After another violent incident of abuse, Tina rushed to the hospital. She was fortunate to have been directed to a doctor who was sensitive and aware of her injuries and their implications, recognising Tina as a survivor of domestic violence. The doctor created a safe and comfortable environment, free of the abuser, for Tina to talk openly and honestly about her situation. The doctor tried to help Tina understand that she was not alone and that there were many organisations and people who could help her. The doctor directed her to WAO, supplying her with their contact number, if she ever decided to leave her abusive home or wanted guidance, counselling, support or information.

Discussion Guide, Question 7: Social worker provided Tina information and options. 

When Tina came to WAO, she was connected with one of the social workers who worked there. The social worker informed Tina of what domestic violence was and the various forms in which it could manifest. While also advising Tina of her rights and what she could legally do to protect herself and her daughter, the social worker never pressured her to take a particular course of action.

Instead, the social worker gave Tina support and made her feel safe and comfortable by not pressuring or coercing her. Recognising the client’s freedom to choose her future breaks the cycle of control and abuse in which a perpetrator takes away a woman’s autonomy and empowerment to make her own decisions. Whatever the client decides to do, she should be supported by the social worker, as what course of action to take is ultimately the client’s choice.

Discussion Guide, Question 8: Proactive police officer utilised the Garis Panduan

When Tina mustered up the courage to go to the police station, she was connected with an investigation officer who, although did not have the necessarily knowledge on how to handle a domestic violence case, was respectful to Tina and persistent in determining the correct process. However, the IO’s peers at the station were not particularly helpful or encouraging. This points to a lack of regular training on domestic violence, which reiterates how law enforcement and society in general may underestimate the significant detrimental effects of domestic violence. The other police officers at the station seemed to hold a flippant attitude toward DV cases, believing that the reports would simply be withdrawn later. Such a response undermines the trauma associated with domestic violence and what survivors experience.

Domestic violence survivors are often misunderstood not only by society, but also by police officers and law enforcement. Domestic abuse is viewed as a matter to remain within the confines of the family, and that should not be aired publicly or warrant any interference from outside parties. Domestic violence is therefore not always perceived as a serious issue that requires intervention from the authorities.

When the IO wanted to help but was not properly equipped or fully confident in what to do, he found guidance in the The Garis Panduan, which was published by the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development and outlines the roles and responsibilities of government agencies in responding to domestic violence cases. Through this guide, the IO was able to competently and confidently assist Tina, helping her complete her statement and informing her of how he would proceed with the investigation. The IO gave her a referral letter for an IPO and a copy of the police report, enabling Tina to be informed and knowledgeable about her decisions and the process that was about to unfold. Finally, the IO also physically accompanied Tina back to her home to collect her personal belongings and bring her daughter with her to WAO’s shelter.

A comprehensive community response to domestic violence must not only be sensitive, but competent and confident. The Garis Panduan empowered the IO to be informed and carry out his responsibilities to help Tina.         

Discussion Guide, Question 9: Prompt action resulted in Tina obtaining an IPO quickly.
The IPO is one of the most important tools available to ensure the safety of a domestic violence survivor and her children, and prevent further incidents of abuse. After the survivor files her report at the police station, an investigation officer will then interview the survivor. Following this, the IO gives the survivor a referral letter for an IPO to take to the welfare department in support of an application for IPO, which is then issued by the Court. In Tina’s case, prompt action by WAO, the police, and the welfare officer led to her obtaining an IPO within one day of applying for it.

Discussion Guide, Question 10: Tina’s daughter felt the effects of domestic violence

After being subject to witnessing her father psychologically and physically abusing her mother, Tina’s daughter’s behaviour changed. She became more reserved and disinclined to socialising with people other than her mother. This can happen with children who have grown up in an abusive domestic environment. Studies show that a substantial percentage of children of women who are abused later enter abusive relationships themselves. They are also more susceptible to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, while also experiencing strong feelings of guilt, fear, and distrust towards people in general. Children who witness or experience abuse may also adopt the abuser’s behaviour and perpetuate the cycle of violence. Many abusers witnessed abuse or were abused themselves when they were children.

With early and proactive intervention, Tina’s daughter was able to work through some of her issues with the help of play therapy, conducted at WAO, and became more socially comfortable and better adjusted. Creative responses such as play therapy or writing can be extremely valuable in rehabilitating not only women who have been abused, but also their children.

[back to menu]
[previous page]
[next page]