by Name Undisclosed
I am a Singaporean girl born in '92, and I have personally grown up in a family where "corporal punishment" is used. At least, that's what my parents would tell themselves. This story is about child-hitting in Singapore/Asia, and my heart breaks to see so many other forms of abuse posted here.
I wrestled with myself about sharing my thoughts, but I decided that if we don't talk about it, it will always stay behind closed doors.
The topic of hitting children, frankly, creates a fight-or-flight response in me. It brings up memories of running away, being cornered and defenseless, crying and begging. To give some context, it was my father who did the hitting in the family. It was an unpredictable what would trigger his uncontrollable fits of rage. I remember punishable instances like showing my sister a hand gesture (apparently it was rude, but would I know?), not wanting to try mango, jumping on chairs and disturbing the neighbours, and not going to sleep early. Other times it could be a word, or laughter, sneezing, crying, playing too much, talking too softly, or taking too long to answer a question. The beatings always started with a certain tone of voice that signified building anger, and this would send my heart racing and my legs scrambling for a hiding place. Then there would be the chase, the pleading, my own threats to jump out of the window, and then the scrunching up to brace for the feather duster, cane, or hand. Tears always erupted at this point. I would look for my mum and she would be standing quietly away, or not in the room. There were times when I would be dragged out of the house, screaming and crying, and left locked outside the gate at night. I would be retrieved quietly by my mum once my dad went to sleep.
There is one memory of my dad silently rubbing ointment on my wounds after beating me. This is not a warm memory - it was deeply frightening and tore apart my sense of trust. The holidays and outings never quite made up for the indescribable betrayal and helplessness I felt in my childhood.
Talking about this brings up my first suicidal memory at a young age. I had just been beaten and ran into a room to cry alone on the bed. As the tears subsided, I found a piece of paper and pencil and wrote down my feelings.
It was four words: "I want to die". Unsure what to do, I showed this to my mum. She went to show it to my dad, and I got another trashing for writing such things.
After that second beating, I had a serious feeling of trusting nobody, of forever giving up on life and joy. Eventually after enough of these incidents, I vowed to kill my dad, or perish myself. I spent some nights standing in the kitchen and looking at the knife. Such thoughts always brought deep, crippling frustration and endless tears to my pillow. I wanted to retaliate, but I felt scared and couldn't bring myself to hurt anyone or anything else. So by secondary school, this had turned into self harm. But along the way I found other friends like me, whose parents would hit them when they were drunk, or divorcing, and we would show each other our wounds, from belts, hangers, canes, and hands. I often heard neighbours raising their voices and children screaming and crying from being hit. This might have been what saved me, but it also normalised child-hitting in my mind.
Back when I was 9 or 10, I had tried to look on the bright side, and thought I'd come to an enlightening day when I would wake up thankful about the beatings that made me who I am. But this feeling was fleeting; as I grew up, the beatings and scoldings became more humiliating (from hitting the legs to slapping the face), more public, and more insulting. I spent large parts of my life avoiding my home, because my dad represented the scariest thing in the world to me. Until now, I cannot say I love him. As an adult, I see a tiny, silly little man who owns so many books but never bothered to grow a working heart.
Anyway, now that I'm 24 (last hit two years ago), I can see that what I experienced was a form of intimidation and control, and that it started any time my dad felt threatened about being always right.
To my dad, and all the parents like him who hit children in fits of rage, in carelessness, to silence them when they disagree with you, or to prove you are “always right”, trust me that your child will always reserve a part of their heart for fearing you, and will only find relief and peace from that part when you are on your deathbed.