November 2005

Abused husbands, violent wives

source: 'Today' newspaper, 31 October 2005, by Terrance Ang





31 Oct 2005
'Today' newspaper

Husband abuse: when it's men who need shelter from violence

My mother once said "I always taught my daughter that she should leave any man who raised his hand to strike her. But I never realised that I would have to teach my sons that lesson and I regret it."

Unfortunately, I am the person who caused her to make this remark. I am part of a rare but growing species in Singapore - I am an abused husband.

In the three years that we were a couple, my ex-wife and I had the type of relationship that most people think only exists in soap operas. But the drama was painfully real.

We hear cases of women who are beaten by their husbands or male partners. And we rightly admire women who survive abusive husbands.


Foreword by Yawning Bread

See commentary Reality in a world of make-believe


In Singapore, the Government has been working with groups like Aware. The Woman's Charter protects the rights of women in marriage and groups like Aware provide counselling and shelter for women who survive abusive relationships.

But society seems to be blind to the idea that women can be abusive and men can be the victims. I was clueless - until I became one of them.

To be fair, my ex-wife suffers from bi-polar disorder. Her mood swings were extreme. Her personality could be described as being like something from the movie Gremlins On one hand she is the sweet, cute and adorable "mog gwai", on the other hand, she is also the vicious "gremlin".

At its best, the gremlin side of her nature would prompt her to call me at the office and be verbally abusive. I would avoid giving her the telephone numbers of places where I worked, but she would somehow find them whenever I switched off my mobile.

At its worst, her behaviour would result in public embarrassment and violence. She once walked into the men's toilet of a department store to confront me. She would not leave when asked to by the toilet attendant.

4 Nov 2005
'Today' newspaper, Voices section

The abused wife of a bi-polar husband

Letter from Sharon S*

I was glad to read Terrance Ang's account of being the abused husband of a bi-polar disorder sufferer. I am married to someone with a similar illness, only, I am the abused wife.

My husband's mood swings can go from being a concerned and good husband to an abusive and violent spouse. All it takes is to utter the "wrong" things to trigger it off.

Once, we were walking towards the car park after dinner when I casually said we'd better get back as it was getting late. When we passed a row of shops, he insisted on going into a bank to take some flyers. Rudely, he said "After this I want to go Cold Storage and buy more beer." In other words, he was telling me, we could not go home yet. He is under medication and suffers from manic depression. It's a living hell because I don't know when something will set him off. I just live day by day and try to help him the best I can.

Often I feel like just giving up but how can I? He is my husband.

We have another friend who also has bi-polar disorder. It is very sad as her children are so afraid each time Mummy gets into one of her mood swings.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of all parties

In the last major confrontation that we had, I ended up lying at the bottom of a bridge with her hands in my mouth and a fist to the side of my head.

Only one man, a Caucasian, offered to call the police. Everyone else walked past. Had I laid a finger on her, there is no doubt that every passer-by would have rushed to her aid.

Ironically, it was my father-in-law who suggested that I grab hold of her and physically scare her into behaving herself. At first, I tried to restrain her. But it dawned on me that if I left marks on her, she could paint a picture of me as the abuser.

Self-defence is hard to prove when you are 1.75m tall and weigh more than 80 kg, while your wife is 1.55 metres tall and weighs 50 kg. So the only option left to me was to allow her to inflict damage whenever she exploded in public.

It is a golden rule that men simply do not hit women - a man can walk away from a woman, but never hit her. Yet, whenever we see a woman hit a man, our assumption is that the man deserved it.

I know that my actions did not justify her violent outbursts, but people would assume I was at fault. I remember being hit several times with a bag containing a laptop at an MRT station. The station staff approached me as if they wanted to deal with me.

We tried counselling. I accompanied her to sessions at the Institute of Mental Health. By the end, I had to take out a Personal Protection Order (PPO) against her.

I told her that for three years I had lived on a street in London that was known for drug dealers and prostitutes. I had walked along that street, drunk and at dangerous hours, and never been assaulted. She was the first person to assault me. "But I'm your wife," she replied.

I've also come to resent the Woman's Charter as much as I have come to resent the notion that I, as a man, am in any way obliged to take care of a woman - even after a divorce. In the two years that I was married to her, I had to endure public embarrassment and violence - yet, I was the failure because I didn't have a regular income to take care of her.

There was an report in the press a while back about the rise in numbers of men taking out PPOs against women. To men, abused as I was, I would say Never resort to physical violence, we can never win.

And also, never be afraid to take out a PPO. It's not a shame to do it; sometimes it's the only option available. She says she is reformed and has found peace with God. She says she has acknowledged the fact that I have no desire to settle down and have children with her. I'm relieved.

We're in the process of filing for divorce. My parents are relieved I am out of this marriage, as are my friends. I'm suddenly discovering that I have a life. I still care about her; we still speak to each other, which amazes most people.

But the fact remains, trusting her not to resort to violence is one gamble that I won't take.

The writer is a freelance writer. Names have been changed to protect the parties involved.


4  Nov 2005
'Today' newspaper, Voices section

Women's Charter abused to 'punish' man; time to enshrine protection and uphold equality

Letter from Aidan L*

I refer to the commentary, "Husband abuse When it's men who need shelter from violence" (Oct 31). I can empathise with the writer because I also faced similar abuse from my ex-wife.

When I got married in 2000, I didn't expect a quarrelsome mother-in-law. When my marriage failed, my wife adopted her habit of shouting vulgarities over the telephone and in public so as to embarrass and harass me - as if I was solely responsible for the break-up of the marriage.

She would SMS 30 times a day to curse and hurl all sorts of abuse. She even stalked me and SMS-ed me to "beware".

When I tried to reason with her to break up amicably, she vowed, via an SMS, to make my divorce "a long and painful one" so that I would bleed financially, emotionally and psychologically.

Having obtained personal protection orders (PPOs) against my wife and her mum, I was arrested for allegedly breaching the PPOs they had taken out against me in turn when I initiated divorce proceedings.

Because of my size - I am 1.75m tall and weigh 82kg - most people jumped to the conclusion that I had bullied a petite 1.52m, 42kg woman.

Despite getting a court order to see my baby daughter, my wife came up with five medical certificates to deny me access, and gave ridiculous reasons, such as how it cost $24 to get from her home to the child access centre approved by the court.

And when she finally turned up, both my wife and her mother accused me of hitting the latter. The truth ultimately prevailed, in that they had to apologise to me and my family in court for the allegations. But by then, I had endured six hours in the lock-up.

My ex-wife continued to mount relentless assaults in the form of complaints to various Government agencies just to harass me - that I was conducting illegal tuition in my matrimonial flat; that I was breeding mosquitoes; and that I was making lots of money without reporting my income to the Inland Revenue Authority - even wild allegations to the police that I had performed black magic on her. All this was calculated to stress out me and my family.

In January, I was granted a divorce and I am now able to live a normal life after having been "brutalised" for four years.

The outmoded Women's Charter, promulgated in the 1960s to protect housewives left high and dry by their spouses in the event of a divorce, should be changed.

Many modern women are educated and their income may equal or even surpass their husbands', but the Act opens a loophole for abuse where a women just has to make a police complaint and the latter will have to act - even if the complaint is frivolous and unsubstantiated.

The men are made to support their spouses even when their wives' earnings exceed theirs. The Women's Charter has been increasingly used to "punish" the man for the marriage breakup - even though, in most cases, both parties are responsible.

We have in recent years witnessed more men seeking PPOs. But are men really protected? Probably, women know that they are unlikely to be punished, or at least punished heavily - hence they continue to launch their verbal or physical assaults.

The Women's Charter should be pro-family instead of skewed in favour of the female gender. It should be viewed as the Family Charter, to take into account changing modern values, and to uphold equity and equality for both sexes. It's time that men's protection be enshrined too.