Alden Boon

‘He Slapped Me, Punched Me, Kicked Me and Spat at Me, but I Forgive Him.’ Sandra Aulia’s Powerful Account of Surviving Domestic Violence.



Healing and forgiveness

Sandra’s tumultuous relationship with her ex lasted nine long years. Her personal healing took place in 2008 while she was still in the throes of abuse, three years before she left her matrimonial home. As a faithful believer, religion was supposed to be a source of comfort through her most difficult of times. But it was not always so. It seemed that her prayers went unanswered. ‘I said: “God, where are you? Why am I trapped in this marriage? Why am I here?”’ One day, she came across a verse in the Gospel of Luke that told of the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus was crucified along with two criminals, one on his either side.

39 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.”
40 The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? 41 And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”
43 He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

‘Even though he was a criminal, Jesus told him that he would be in paradise with Him. Jesus sacrificed himself and died on the cross to pay for our sins. He died a gory death so that we can live life to the fullest. Reading this verse was so powerful. All my past sins have been forgiven. He forgave me, so therefore I can forgive others. I forgave my teachers who dismissed me, my friends who backstabbed me — one by one, it was difficult, but I forgave all of them. And I forgave my ex-husband. For the next three years, even as he punched my stomach and slapped me, I did not retaliate. I could see him beyond his behaviour, and I felt sorry for him and his family, for they never knew the meaning of true love. My ex might preach about love in church, but he did not have love. In this, I was set free from becoming a product of other people’s sins or bad behaviours.’ So transcendent was this experience that Sandra’s bodily hurts, from headaches to ankle, knee and back problems, went away. ‘Three months into my own healing experience, I woke up one day and didn’t even realise that the pain in my knees was gone.’ She no longer felt trapped in an old body.

Forgiveness will set you free from negativity, judgements and assumptions.

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And as for her blind fidelity to Matthew 19:6, Sandra says, ‘The verse is only one part of the bible. Many times, for us believers, we cherry pick a few things and we hold on to a popular verse without fully understanding its context in the entire bible.’ In hindsight, she said there were three times during her nine-year-long experience when God was trying to speak to her through books that touched on separation and on how love can hurt. ‘I threw the first two books away, because I was so stubborn and thought they did not align with my understanding of Matthew 19:6. Then, there came a third book written by a pastor. Before his ordination, he used to abuse his wife. He broke her ribs. The two of them separated. After another failed marriage, he managed to reconcile with his first wife. In the book, the pastor wrote about how it’s wrong of Christians to tell abused women to put up with domestic violence.’ Validation came too from her own family. It was not until the January 2011 incident that Sandra finally came clean to her parents and siblings about the abuse she was suffering. ‘My father had a stroke so he couldn’t fly to Singapore and be here for me. But he said to me: “If you need to leave him, just leave him. You are not safe in that house.”’

Today, Sandra has transmuted her pain into strength, becoming an activist. Together with the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations — which is behind Star Shelter — she raises awareness of domestic violence through personal sharing and issues clarion calls on ending it. While they have certainly not remained unscathed from the abuse, she and her daughter have emerged stronger. Despite the rough patch where they were bouncing from house to house and trying to make ends meet, her daughter excelled in her studies, and managed to get into the express stream. Her daughter has blossomed into a fine teenager. ‘She is wise beyond her years, and oftentimes is able to empathise with and helps her friends through the problems they face.’

When you melt gold, it’s still gold. See every challenge, every problem, as a chance for promotion. See every setup as a chance for a step up.

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Sandra’s Advice

For Women in Domestic Violence Situations

1) During her time at PAVE, Sandra learnt about the cycle of violence. There is a honeymoon phase, tension-building phase and explosion phase. The honeymoon period, which can span months, is when an abuser apologises for his behaviour and shows remorse. He even shows affection, leading you to believe he is indeed repentant.

The tension-building phase starts when the abuser makes difficult demands again and breaks his promises. Finally, the explosion phase is when the abuser commits an act of abuse, which can include name-calling, beatings, destroying of personal belongings, and even mental manipulation such as threatening to commit suicide.

[Editor’s note: This is a basic guide on the cycle of violence. Not all abusers will follow this cycle.]

2) When seeking medical attention, head to a hospital instead of a clinic. Records of your bruises and treatments will be kept in a repository, which you can retrieve as evidence should you ever go to court. Neighbourhood clinics are unlikely to keep such records.

3) Tolerating and putting up with violent behaviour is not a sacrificial act, nor is it heroic. You do not profit from it. It only emboldens the abuser.

For Bystanders

1) Domestic violence always happens in a private space. Do intervene when you suspect your neighbour or relative is trapped in such a situation. It is not about interfering with the couple’s relationship problems, but helping to defuse the tension and helping the abuser understand that violence is never a means for conflict resolution.

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Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.