‘My husband threatened to cut me into 18 pieces, so I hid all our kitchen knives’, Hong Kong domestic abuse victim says
Charity Harmony House is concerned by the rise in domestic abuse cases in the city. One victim, Helena, 64, shares her harrowing story
Helena, 64, a client of domestic abuse charity Harmony House, has been regularly abused, both psychologically and physically, by her 69-year-old husband since they married in 1981.
“He started beating me right after we got married,” she said. “He slapped me in the face and viciously kicked me. My only way to deal with it was by running away. I was crying my eyes out and just ran off to the streets.”
Helena remembered one occasion where, in front of her daughters, her husband drew out a meat cleaver and started smashing the sink until sparks flew.
On another occasion she was forced to stay out on the streets until 2am to avoid being beaten, even though it was only seven degrees Celsius outside.
After her daughters moved out, she said she would sometimes call one of them to “rescue” her, and they would subsequently plead with their father over the phone to stop his behaviour.
“But this trick only worked some of the time,” she said. “He would still abuse me. I don’t think my children know the full extent of his abuse.”
Now her husband is older and less nimble, she can outrun him, but he continues to verbally abuse her, she said.
“There was a period when he kept saying he would chop me into 18 pieces,” she said. “So I had to hide all the blades and knives in our flat.”
Whenever police or social workers have been called to the couple’s home, her husband has denied any wrongdoing.
Helena said she could not afford to leave him because she had not worked a full-time job since being married.
“I really struggle to want to move out because it would mean sacrificing my whole lifestyle,” she said. “I don’t know anyone outside of my neighbourhood. Some social workers recommended I move to some far away housing estate in Tuen Mun. If that happened, I would be basically just incarcerating myself in a little apartment.”
Helena said when she confronted her husband about the abuse, he replied that she had “angered him”.
“But that is not really a reason,” she said.
He once agreed to receive some therapy on domestic abuse with the Hong Kong Family Welfare Society, but that only stopped the abuse for three days, she said.
She has shared her story with close friends but they only comforted her by telling her to ignore him when he shouts.
“They tell me: ‘You can pretend he is just singing some random tunes,’” she said.
Helena said she had been more open about her struggle than many victims of domestic abuse.
“Sometimes I still feel embarrassed to tell people,” she said, adding that she wanted a divorce but did not know how she would go about it.
Her husband fell and injured himself a while ago and the doctors told her he only had a 50 per cent chance of survival.
“I was really disappointed he survived,” she said.
Where to get help
The Family and Child Protective Services Units (FCPSUs) of the Social Welfare Department are specialised units manned by experienced social workers. www.swd.gov.hk/vs/english/welfare
Harmony House is a women and children’s shelter in Kwun Tong. www.harmonyhousehk.org
Samaritans Hong Kong offers 24-hour support to anyone suffering abuse. www.samaritans.org.hk
Women Helping Women Hong Kong supports a wide range of programmes designed for those who have experienced violence and abuse. www.whwhk.org
The Hong Kong Women’s Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls in Hong Kong. www.twfhk.org