Monday, December 9

Doctor stands up for abused housewives

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Dr Haliza (fourth left), Yogasri (right) and volunteers from WAO outside the court after the ruling.

Dr Haliza (fourth left), Yogasri (right) and volunteers from WAO outside the court after the ruling.

SIBU: “I believe once I stand for myself, it means I stand for other women too,” victim of domestic violence Dr Haliza Zurah Zulkefeli told the Magistrate’s Court here yesterday.

The 35-year-old medical doctor is one of the very few domestic violence victims brave enough to speak on the experience of abuse and her dramatic escape from her abusive marriage.

Her purpose was not to put blame on anybody, but to inspire women to come out and to know their rights.

“At the time of beating, I really wanted to leave because it was physically hurting and verbally abusive; he used religion to back him up and I really had bad trauma.

“When I got back to Kuala Lumpur, it took me quite a while to gather my strength to face the world again, but I had to be strong for my children,” she said in an interview yesterday.

She had been abused by her husband Mohd Rodzan Hisham Mohd Jamal, 34, since 2008. And yesterday, Haliza received the justice that she needed.

Rodzan pleaded guilty before the Magistrate’s Court for voluntarily causing hurt under Section 323 of the Penal Code read together with Section 326A of the same code.

The section provides for a maximum imprisonment of one year or a fine not more than RM2,000 or both.

The court fined Rodzan RM1,500 in default three months’ jail and ordered him to pay RM400 as compensation to Dr Haliza.

According to the charge, Rodzan committed the offence on June 16 last year at about 3.10pm at a house in Permai Timur Lane.

Dr Haliza said that was the last abuse incident she experienced and the only incident that she reported to the authority.

Dr Haliza said it started with financial abuse at the early stage of their marriage in 2008 and physical abuse started in 2014.

“He was trying to keep me away from people and my family; sometimes I got locked in the house, and I had to negotiate
with him to let me out of the house so that I could go to work,” she said, adding that she was working at the Sibu Hospital at that time.

When the abuse worsened in 2015, she had no choice but to finally come out and receive help she needed.

However, it was not as easy as she had thought because she had no support and was completely alone.

Although the One-Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) was available at Sibu Hospital, she could not go there because she could not
face her colleagues and juniors there.

“I was totally alone actually. I had no money and no place to go. I slept by the roadside outside the police station.

“However, I managed to get support from Women Aid Organisation (WAO). All this while I’d been messaging to Think I Need Aid (Tina) and when the final attack happened, I went out and finally told them that I really needed help.

“They gave me step by step guidance. When I returned to Kuala Lumpur, I got another help from another NGO – Johor Empowerment of Intellectual Women Association (Jeiwa); and also support from families and friends, to help me to gather back my strength,” she recalled.

Dr Haliza said she was urgently transferred back to West Malaysia following her report on the domestic violence.

She said it took her a few months to stand on her feet again, and now, she said she was much happier, progressing in her career and remaining strong for her three children.

“I’m still recovering from financial predicament but my life is good now; I want to focus on myself, children and my career,” she enthused.

Dr Haliza, who is also a columnist for The Iskandarian and Harmoni, said she was happy with the court decision and she had also forgiven her husband and decided not hold any grudges against him.

“He is being self-destructive. I’ve assisted him, but he refused to accept it; I do not want to hold grudges against him, I just want to move on with my life,” she said.

Dr Haliza is now a volunteer for WAO and Jeiwa, and she hopes that her story can be an inspiration for other women to come out.

She hopes to have a team in Sibu to help women in crisis.

“OSCC is only temporary; we do not have a shelter. When we meet with crisis, we need a place where we can transit for a while before we can go out to face the world; I see that is lacking here,” she said.

She hopes those still suffering from violence can understand their rights and come out from that violence.

She advised these women to recognise that they were being abused and to get help from relevant government bodies.

She pointed out that there was nothing to be ashamed of as it was not their fault.

“Every woman has her value and should not be beaten even with flowers. There are so many beautiful things to be explored out there than staying at the abused place,” she suggested.

Dr Haliza is currently going through a divorce process (fasakh).

Meanwhile, social worker from WAO, Yogasri Sivanyanam, said Dr Haliza’s case was an example that domestic violence could happen to anyone regardless of their economic status, religion, background or even education.

“As long as you are stuck in that cycle, anybody can be a victim; though she (Dr Haliza) is a professional, she had gone through so many difficulties to come out.

“And I know that there are so many women here. What we need is to have one woman to stand out for one victim in terms of giving emotional support,” Yogasri said.

She said she was happy with the court decision as the court also saw the case as more than just family matters.

“I pray that more women here can take Dr Haliza as an inspiration because we have a system, we have people that can help; if you do not stand up for your rights, you cannot expect people to stand up for you,” she pointed out.

She hopes there will be more expertise here to advocate for women’s rights and assisting them in times of crisis.

“Hopefully, the government will support in putting a stop to the vicious cycle.”

WAO, established 35 years ago, is assisting 200 to 300 women every year.

WAO can be contacted at 03-7956-3488 (Mondays to Saturdays, 9am–5pm). On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the helpline is available from 7pm to 10pm.