by: Deborah Choo/
This article was first published in ‘Lady in the mirror‘. We thank Deborah for allowing TOC to reproduce it in full here.
Nakisha (not her real name) was brutally raped of her virginity one morning by her employer’s 24-year old son. When her employer learnt of the incident, he threatened Nakisha to remain silent about the incident. In exchange, he promised to send his son away to Thailand. “I am doing this to protect you,” he had said to Nakisha. Terrified, she cowered.
The deal was struck.
Six months ago, she sat at a table in Humanitarian Organization of Migration Economics (HOME), a migrant workers shelter. She had just fled from her employer’s house.
When I sat her down for the interview, she had just returned from a psychological test at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). She was brought there by the President of HOME, Ms Bridget Tan. “I feared that she would have any psychological and emotional trauma after what she’s been through so I brought her for a mental test. She remains strong,” said Bridget.
Her predicament, as unfortunate as it is, is not unique out of the 196,000 women who work as foreign domestic workers in Singapore. These women usually come from neighboring countries such as Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, and India.
The Human Rights Report 2005 – Maid to Order called for the end to abuse of foreign domestic workers. According to a BBC report, it stated that “The report paints a grim picture of young women trapped in apartment blocks, beaten, sometimes raped, killed or driven to suicide by their employers.”
Even as Nakisha related the scenario throughout the interview, she struggled to keep her composure. Flashbacks of the dreadful incident haunted the shadow of her eyes as she fought tears back that threatened to surface. She recounted the incident to me.
It all began in late July 2009 when this Indonesian lady started work. Trouble surfaced almost immediately. For the first five months, her ex-employer’s second son began sexually harassing her. When he got bolder, he explicitly told her that he wanted to sleep with her. She refused. However, because she was afraid, she never told this to her employer.
In the wee hours on the morning of 29 December, 2010, when the sky was still dark, the man returned home from work all drunk. Entering the house, he saw Nakisha. Lumbering across to her, he forcefully dragged Nakisha into his room, covered her mouth, and and raped her.
His parents were in the next room sound asleep.
The moment he was done, he got off Nakisha, gathered all his clothes, and left her on the bed. But not without a threat before he left. “If you tell this to my mother, I will do something to you.”
Paralyzed with fear, she sobbed in silence and told no one of the incident then.
However, the man continued to rape her on multiple occasions over the next two to three months so frequently that one day she decided that that was the limit. “I cannot take it anymore,” she told me.
Sometime before the Chinese New Year of 2010, Nakisha called her agency for help. Then one night after Chinese New Year, her employer abruptly woke her up at 1 a.m. in the morning and dragged her down to his chicken rice stall. Sitting her down, he tried to convince her to lie to her agency. He wanted her to tell her agency that she only made up the story of being sexually assaulted because she was homesick and wanted to return home.
“My boss told me to tell my agency that his son did not rape me and that I lied. He said ‘you imagine if you have a brother and your brother did this kind of things and the whole world knows, how would you feel? Think of your family in the same situation.’” Nakisha related to me in the words of her employer.
So that was what she did. However she stated that should the son rape her one more time, she will go to the police.
The next month, the son was sent away to Thailand. Even before he left, he showed no signs of repentance. “He see me he also say ‘not like I did anything wrong. It’s not a problem.’” Nakisha told me of what her rapist said to her.
She continued work with the family as usual. Fast forward a brief nine months, and her rapist is back. Worse, behaving as if what he did to her was not a big deal.
All the repressed feelings and images came rushing back to her. Confronted with yet again the harsh reality of her body being violently violated, fear took a deathly grip on her.
On 27th February 2011, she ran away from her employer’s house in the afternoon to HOME. She has not heard from her employer since, and is also unsure if the employer made a police report. “I heard from Sister Bridget that my employer told my agency that I ran away because I stole some jewellery from them,” she said.
However, pertaining to making a police report, Nakisha told me that she is currently unsure of her intentions. “I am still thinking about it,” she said.
Bridget added that “We’re also waiting for the psychological test results to see if she can withstand – mentally and emotionally – the interrogation process should she decides to take it to the police. Of course we advise her to, but this is her choice.”
To find out more about HOME, click here.