Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Domestic Violence

The first domestic violence case I heard of was from my friend at primary school.

She was a pretty little girl and one day she came to our house to tell us that her father was in the police station because her mother had reported him for beating her up badly. And she asked us to let her stay until her mother could pick her up.

We were pretty shocked,even though we had heard whispers of wife beating amongst the women's groups.

It seemed that Mr. Wong ( name changed) already had a first wife,whom he divorced after three years of marriage. And from that marriage, he had two girls. It was very easy and convenient for him to divorce her at that time in Sibu because she could not produce any sons. And by going to the temple with his mother, he got rid of his wife by burning some joss sticks to appease the gods. The sad first wife also agreed to the divorce because of her own reasons. No one was wiser because she did not say anything. We heard that this courageous lady later went to the then Malaya (Now West Malaysia) to work in a restaurant, something quite unheard of at that time.

Soon Mr. Wong took a second wife with his mother's blessing and the wedding ceremony was held in a local restaurant, Hock Chu Leu which was at that time, the second largest restaurant because the oldest and biggest one was Lok Tian Yuen. And from this second marriage he had three children, again all girls.

Unknown to us , he was a wife beater. Once when Mrs. Wong was beaten and had a broken arm, her mother in law refused to let her go to the hospital for treatment. She was given treatment by a ku fu exponent, whom we knew as Si fu. But unfortunately the treatment was not good enough and she had some very bad pains. She went for injections and a surgery finally. It was almost a gangrene case. When all of this was happening, her husband disappeared. It seemed to Indonesia where he found a good job in a timber camp.

A year later he came back with some money and that was the time he beat her again.

She got a police man to help her. She did not know anything about legal ways as it was sometime in 1958 and almost every one was scared of employing a lawyer in case he could be too expensive. A lawyer was almost like a god at that time to the Foochows in Sibu.

Mrs. Wong , we learned later, suffered for 16 years under the hands of a wife beating husband. Being a very filial woman, she chose to stay with her mother in law until she died. And in the same year,when her eldest step daughter was old enough to get married, she used the excuse to go with her to another town, to look after her babies. She then arranged for her three girls to join her in the new home.

We never heard of Mrs.Wong and her five children any more. But occasionally when we were older we caught sight of Mr.Wong who had then become very gaunt and unpleasant. However he continued to perm his hair, and wore his Hawaiian shirt , white trousers and white leather shoes.

His fashion was the height of fashion for many foochow and Hokkien men in 1960's Sibu. By then men were spending thousands of ringgit in the nightclubs chasing after Taiwanese singers. This was one of the side effects of the Asian timber boom.

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