A Malaysian Woman's Battle With Domestic Violence For 8 Torturous Years (Part 1)
"He was once my best friend." The same man that vowed to love, protect and most importantly, be her friend, turned out to be her worst nightmare.
When Shona first approached us, we were sure this was a story that deserves attention and the best way to shed light on the seriousness of domestic violence. But nothing prepared us for the barbaric details that she revealed about her marriage.
This is the story of Shona Roy, a battered young Malaysian woman who has dealt with domestic violence for eight long, torturous years.
Married at the tender age of 22 in 2008 after a whirlwind romance, Shona first met 'T', a Saudi Arabian national when she was still in college.
A year after being married to 'T', Shona found out that her husband was involved in extramarital affairs. From stumbling upon tonnes of sexually driven messages to suggestive photos of women in his phone, the revelations were never ending.
When she asked him, he evaded her questions and came up with excuses for his behaviour.
"His excuses varied. Once he said that the girl was just someone that used to like him, and then it became an old relationship, it was never consistent."
As the year went on, Shona quickly realised that her husband's life is a web of intricate lies.
Fast forward a year later, she had her first child, son Emran Alshabrakah in April 2009 and her marriage was in shambles.
The constant lies and overall unhappiness in her marriage led to Shona going through a bad case of post-natal depression. That is when 'T' started hitting her.
"I was depressed, he continued cheating on me, not on a single woman but many at a time. That drove me into my own cocoon and I stopped talking to him. It didn't sit well with him and that drove my husband to become violent and start hitting me," explained Shona.
She made her first police report in May 2010, just a month after her daughter Zahra'a Alshabrakah was born. The police came over, took her statement and said that they would look into the matter. According to Shona, little was done afterwards.
'T', on the other hand, continued slapping, kicking and slamming her head against the wall for one thing or another.
"When I cry and explain to him that I was just out with my friends or family, he goes into panic mode, apologises and starts showering me with expensive gifts."
It could be as simple as Shona heading out for dinner with her family or just running errands, he merely needed an excuse to channel his anger towards her.
Four years passed, and in 2012, Shona went back to complete her tertiary education, as per her husband's promise to her mother when asking for her hand in marriage. In the midst of juggling her two kids, an erratic, violent husband and her studies, Shona continued to be beaten and emotionally abused by her husband.
The torture continued and he hit her really hard one day, when she questioned him about the explicit messages from women on his Facebook account's inbox.
"I stopped talking to him completely. We were living in the same house but I ignored him and just focused on my kids. A few weeks later, he walked into the house with a Quran and swore on it that he would never hit me again," added Shona.
Keeping up with his habit of showering her with expensive gifts after hitting her, this time around he bought her an exorbitantly expensive car to make up for his temper
While she was determined to complete her education, he dropped out of college and tried his luck with business deals that involved her relatives and large sums of money.
"It didn't work it, he didn't keep his end of the bargain and ended up owing my uncles a lot of money," explained Shona.
So, in 2014, after months of looking for employment opportunities locally and not being able to find a suitable job, 'T' decided to go back to Saudi Arabia, leaving behind Shona and his two children in Malaysia.
"He got a job there, and used to visit every couple of months, things got better and I genuinely thought our relationship has survived the worst." expressed Shona.
"In 2015, my husband came back and was eager for the family to move to his home country, Saudi Arabia.
"He promised that our children will have the best education and it's best for the family to be together but the move turned out to be the biggest mistake of my life," explained Shona.
On 7 March 2015, the family moved back to Saudi Arabia and that was the end of life as she knew it.
"A few months after moving to Saudi, 'T' received a phone call saying that his cousin got into an accident. He dropped his phone and left in a hurry and walked over to pick it up, the phone kept buzzing."
"When I picked up the phone, I saw messages in Arabic pouring in from a lady whose name I recognised as his childhood friend and neighbour. I managed to get an acquaintance to translate some of it and later found out that he has been having an affair for the past year with her," said Shona.
To make matters worse, she came across photos of unknown women in his phone's gallery, with many other messages coming on from his other social networking sites.
When she questioned about the messages and photos, he denied it at first, claiming that he has never met these women.
Minutes later, unable to justify his actions, he merely said, "It's your fault, you were all the way in Malaysia."
"I was shocked. Not only was he still cheating on me, but he named me as the reason for his infidelity towards me."
Confused, grief-stricken and left in an unfamiliar territory, Shona decided to talk to her sister-in-law and other local women that she's friends with about her marital problems.
Instead of offering support, the women ended up saying that it is common for "their men" (referring to Saudi nationals) to be this way.
"I was so shocked when they said that. The idea of condoning adultery was something I could never see myself doing. I love my husband, but I realised right then, I've been excusing his behaviour for far too long," added Shona.
"I went into depression and he lapsed into his old behaviour, only worse this time around. He started torturing me, dragging me across the floor and once he chased me around with a knife, in front of my 6-year-old son."
The more he hit her, the less responsive she became, all to the point that she only spoke to her children and locked herself up in the room for most parts of the day.
To make matters worse, he took away the only thing that she cared about - her two, young children - and dropped them off at his parents' place. He also made sure that she can't leave the house by locking her in.
A few weeks later, he walked in and coaxed her gently into going out with him, telling her that it's time they talk about their relationship. After a while, she agreed and they went out to get a drink.
He drove her to an isolated beach strip they had a little talk about their relationship. Halfway through the conversation, 'T' got out and went over to the backseat, after saying that he needed to take something.
"I saw him taking out a string that I recognised was from my daughter's pajamas bottoms. In a split second, he had the string wrapped around my neck, strangling me. While I was fighting for my life, he repeatedly said, 'Tell me you won't leave me’."
Realising that she was losing consciousness, he stopped and started crying. Shona described his behaviour as deranged and confusing.
"I wanted to run. But he forced me into the car which only pushed me to jump out of the car in the middle of the road. He dragged me back in, I was crying, had a cut and looked like a mess, but nobody paid any attention," said Shona.
Hoping that his father would be able to help her, she asked him to take her to his father's place and he agreed.
Proving her wrong, her father-in-law dismissed her claims that 'T' tried strangling her, but agreed to take her to the hospital instead after she begged for it.
Instead of taking her to the general hospital to be treated, Shona's elderly father-in-law "dumped" her at a mental institution
According to Shona, her father-in-law left her there and asked the nurses to treat her and that he'll pick her up when she's "cured".
Luckily enough, the physician was willing to listen to her side of the story and after a series of examinations, declared that she was just having "adjustment issues" and was in no way mentally ill or disturbed.
His physical examination found that she had strangulation marks on her neck and to ensure that she receives the necessary care, the doctor had referred her to the general hospital.
At the Dammam Medical Complex, the emergency physician, Dr. Mohamed Farooq Parey diagnosed her case as "assault by unspecified means, spouse or domestic partner" and called the police to take over the case.
Shona was hopeful, she sincerely believed that the authorities will take her case seriously and take action against her husband for violent assaulting her.
But, she got arrested instead.
The officers laughed at her when she told them her husband tried strangling her and has been physically abusing her. She even passed them the medical reports from the local hospitals that treated her.
"They told me that it is normal for a husband to behave this way, and asked her why she wasn't covered up with the hijab. I lost my temper, they were trivialising me. The officer jailed me for that."
"Hours later, my father-in-law turned up and bailed me," said Shona.
Realising that her only way out of this situation was to be nice, or at least try, she decided to change her behaviour towards him. She was walking on eggshells but it worked and her husband stopped beating her up.
'T' even took her on a little trip to Dubai and a few weeks later, she found out that she was pregnant with her third child.
It was July 2015 and the fasting month, when her husband kicked her for not fasting. She lost the baby.
She was devastated but stuck as 'T' was still keeping a very close eye on her movements. The quick-witted, then 29-year-old Shona, came up with a game plan to "escape" from the clutches of her husband.
She managed to get his "permission" to go back home, but he warned her that she'll have to be back in four days.
"I packed up my bags and left Saudi Arabia, away from the man that robbed me off my happiness, freedom and life."
As heartbreaking as it is, domestic violence is one of the most common forms of violence in the world.
Shona's story is a long one that is yet to meet its end. To find out what happens after she comes back to Malaysia, leaving her two young children in Saudi, read the second part of her story on Monday, 25 April, 8pm.