I am a Filipino domestic worker. My life in Singapore was a living nightmare filled with perpetual abuses by my employer. This is my story.
It began in August 2011 when I was hired by a family with three young children, all of whom I patiently cared for. On top of doing household chores, my employer demanded that I hand wash and iron the clothes for the entire household after putting the kids to sleep. This took me the whole night, and I ended up sleeping after 2am every day.
My employer started abusing me: snipping off my hair, kicking, caning and verbally abusing me. The string of abuses continued. She cut my clothes, spat on me and even taught her children to cane and kick me.
When I made a mistake, such as forgetting to switch off the lights or the fan, my employer would deduct one dollar from my allowance. Other than a miserable ration of $20 per month, I was never paid. Sometimes, I was forced to sleep on the toilet floor – that’s my punishment.
Degrading as it was, I could neither change an employer nor go home immediately. My employer needed to first find someone to replace me and my agent demanded me to return the owed placement fees that amounted to 7.5 months. I was stuck between two fires.
The abuses escalated in intensity: my employer pulled down my shorts and underwear in front of her children. Instead of stopping their mom, the children laughed and by that response encouraged the act. It was excruciating to bear such a humiliation, so I ran away.
When she arrived at HOME, Amelia* had visible bruises and cane marks on her face and her emaciated body. She reported her case to the police.
Amelia was permitted to find a new job as a domestic worker but she was too traumatized to enter another employer’s house. She ended up staying in HOME’s shelter for two years, three months and two days, all the while without a source of income.
The long wait for her employer to be investigated and prosecuted took its toll on Amelia, both emotionally and financially. She felt the pain of separation from her children. Through no fault of her own, she was stranded in Singapore without any means to support the family that was waiting for her back home. She developed severe depression and anxiety. Her request to return to her home country was not approved because she was the key witness.
In March 2014, Amelia finally returned home. Her former employer was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment in April.
Her application for compensation by the Attorney General’s Chambers was turned down, and Amelia returned home penniless. She is still struggling to deal with her ordeal and get back on her feet after two and a half years without income.
It is crucial that victims of exploitation like Amelia are given the opportunity to work while they wait for their abusers to be investigated and prosecuted. This includes the chance to switch sectors in cases like Amelia’s where she was incapable of returning to work as a domestic worker.
Victims must also be fairly compensated for the costs of their ordeal. This will help to ensure that victims do not continue to be punished financially and emotionally for their tormentors’ actions. Only then will justice truly be served. #stoptraffickingsg
* not her real name