Moving On / Letting Go
'A' level student-inmate from from Changi Women's Prison
All around me are familiar faces. We are all serving time in prison and something not to be proud of. Laughing, joking around and smiling, all the variety of mask that we wearing is our attempt to disguise our deep-seated negative emotions and inferior past, bruised and wounded hearts which were hurt by our past. Everyone has a difficult story to tell, and I am sharing mine hoping that there is a lesson to learn.
Since I was a baby, my maternal grandmother cared for me and had to provide me with all that I needed. Most of my friends envied me when they knew that I am an only child. They had probably imagined through rose-tinted-glasses that I am given individual love, care and affection by my parents and all the luxuries in life. However, they were wrong. During my growing up phase, my parents were intermittently sent to prison for drug offences. My childhood revolved around trips to Changi Prison and Drug Rehabilitation Centres. I did not know exactly why but grandmother told me they were studying.
My mother gave birth to me when she was 16 years old. I could sense the anger in her when she blamed me for causing her to lose her freedom and her figure, for that matter. She was always under the influence of drugs and she would give me a good beating over for the slightest mistakes. There was once, I had meddled with her box of cigarette and out of anger, she took the hot iron and placed it at the back of my hands. She also beat the daylight out of me. I was too young to do anything and all I could do was to cry and lick my wounds. Until today, those battle scars are still with me. I became traumatised by my mum and grew very afraid of her. With my mum in the house, I feel like I was walking on eggshells and was careful not to step on her tail.
My dad was a loving father but too bad, he had spent more time in prison than with me. I could remember clearly the uneventful day when mum and dad were handcuffed right in front of my eyes. They were caught with so many drugs and had to be sent to prison for drug trafficking. I was only 14 years old, naïve and innocent. I could not study anymore as I had started to mix with the wrong company. I was expelled from school for disorderly behaviour. I began smoking and even tried glue sniffing. I was a rebellious child and made taking care of me difficult for my grandmother. I even started to shoplift and stole clothes in department stores but was lucky that I was not caught.
In April 1996, my grandmother called me on my phone to tell me that my dad will be hanged on 26th April due to his trafficking charges. I was too dumbstruck and when he died, he took a part of me with him and or part of me died too. My mother was released from prison but it did not take long for her to relapse and go to prison again.
I was 15 years old and I had so much anger and resentment in me. My two uncles, their two wives, my cousin-brothers, almost everyone in my family was involved in drugs. While others have a family tree to be honoured for, mine was a cannabis plant. Foolishly, I began dabbling with drugs too and got myself hooked too. I seek comfort in drugs as it eases my sense of loneliness and temporarily heal my pain. Yes, temporarily – I was caught and soon sent to prison when I was 16 years old. It was the most humiliating moment for me when I had to be stark naked in front of officers who needed to strip search me.
I was not reformed and shortly after my release, I was caught again and again.
In 2010 after my 7th admission, I thought that I would want to change my life and was grateful when I met J, my boyfriend. At first, he had showered me with so much love and affections. Even my grandmother had approved of our relationship. However, little did I know that beneath those dreamy eyes was a violent person who was covering up his inner rage. Due to his abusive mother, he had a vengeance against women and I was unfortunate to be his victim. He would beat me up and kicked my stomach when he got angry. He would throw a string of expletives at me. Once again, I would feel unwanted and undesiring. It brought me back to the recollection of my sad and abusive childhood. I would even believe that I deserved it.
The last straw which broke the camelback was when I was strangled by J, he was jealous that I had contacted my ex-boyfriend. I was too shocked by his violence and I told him that we would better break up, and I was not able to endure any more pain from him. He was incensed and pushed me to the wall. He threatened that he would make life difficult for me. He stripped me naked and forced himself on me. He even unashamedly recorded the whole scene on his video phone and raped me repeatedly. I was crying in pain and humiliation but I had to switch to a difficult role. I acted that I was sorry and pleaded him to give me another chance. He succumbed. Things went rosy for the next few days and once he was unguarded, I deleted the video recording form his phone. By God’s grace, I was caught by CNB Officers for my drug addiction and was sent to prison. I do not know whether I should thank the Officer or not but yes, ultimately, prison became the safe haven for me.
In 2011, while serving time in prison, I had met a lot of people some with even worse experiences than me. I was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment and I am currently waiting another 6 more months for my release in 2017 January. During this admission, I am grateful that God had shed a light on me and my faith in religion has been strengthened. I am able to forgive my mother who had left a permanent scar in my memories and my hand. She is outside, somewhere and never tried to write to me or visit me. She is probably too weak and vulnerable in drug’s dilemma and waiting for CNB to rescue her.
I also wish to forgive the men in my life who had left such a great impact on me. My dad, for leaving too soon and J for misjudging all women. I am now studying and preparing for my ‘A’ levels this year. If I was not sent to prison, I may not have this same opportunity outside. I had promising results for both my ‘N’ level and ‘O’ level examination. After attending a few counselling courses such as ‘Power of my dreams” and religious classes, I am recuperating and being a more positive person.
You cannot choose your family, as it is a gift from God but God gives us the choice to break the vicious cycle and move on in life. Education has certainly changed my life and I am now ready to let go of my past and move on to a brighter future.