Adik (me) hates him. Ayah (father) was never kind to Mak (mother). He would shout at her. Sometimes, he would push her down and kick her. Adik tried to stop Ayah but he was too strong. He would push Adik away and tell Adik, “Go to your room! If not, I will hit you with a belt.”
When Ayah turned into a monster, nobody will dare to come near him. There was a time when Kakak (elder sister) shouted back at Ayah and he slapped and tugged her hair. Kakak screamed and pleaded Ayah to let her go. After Ayah was satisfied punching her, he let go of her hair. Kakak immediately run out of the house. Adik did not see her back home until a few days later. Mak was very worried for her. She called Kakak a few times. When she finally got through, Adik could hear Mak crying and asking her to return home.
But Ayah was not like this all the time. Sometimes, he would be nice to Mak and Kakak. He would buy their favourite food – rojak India. He would also take Adik to the nearby playground. But Ayah has a bad temper. He would get irritated by small things like Mak forgetting to wash his socks. And when Ayah gets angry, his face will look scary and his eyes turned red. Mak would tell Adik that Ayah was possessed by some jinn (demon). That was what her Ustaz (religious teacher) told her. Ustaz told Mak to be patient and pray for God’s help. Mak believed that Ayah would change. Mak believed that God will reward those who are patient.
Kakak, however, would tell Adik a different thing. She said Ayah is a bad person. He would gamble and banyak hutang (heavily in debt). “Ayah is useless. He should not hit Mak. The next time he lays his hands on Mak, Kakak will kill him!” That was what Kakak would tell Adik. Adik felt scared. What if Kakak really kill Ayah? Kakak would be in jail and Adik would be left alone with Mak. The thought of it would make Adik cry the whole night.
One day, Adik was awoken by a loud noise coming from the living room. Adik peeked from the bedroom. Adik saw three policemen pinning Ayah to the ground. One of them was handcuffing him. In a matter of seconds, Ayah was gone. Adik do not know what exactly happened. Kakak said that Ayah was arrested for selling drugs.
Mak became very quiet after that incident. She did not talk about what happened at all. All Adik knew was that Mak found a job as a cleaner in a nearby condominium a few days later. Kakak is now staying home more than usual. She no longer says that she’s sleeping over at her friend’s place. Adik is happy that Mak is no longer crying to herself. But Adik is still scared to sleep at night. What if Ayah comes home? What if he turned into a monster again? What if the jinn decided to possess Mak or Kakak?
When Adik feels scared, Adik will hug the bolster tightly and draw the blanket. Adik will try to sleep it over. But it is difficult to fall asleep. Adik is scared that the monster will enter into Adik’s dreams. In the morning, Adik would feel tired. Sometimes, Adik fell asleep in class. Teacher would scold Adik. Adik will try not to cry. If Adik cries, Adik’s friends would laugh. Sometimes, Adik felt like punching them. Maybe, Adik has a jinn inside Adik. Like Ayah.
*** Note: The above story was narrated by a 7-year old boy who suffered from the trauma of family violence. His story is not uncommon among children who witnessed their loved ones being beaten by someone close to them. The trauma may have long lasting impact on their lives and developmental process. Early intervention is critical to ensure that children get the support they need to overcome their trauma and break the cycle of violence.