An Indonesian domestic helper went through such violent physical abuse by her employers over a period of six months that she was left permanently disfigured.
The 37-year-old helper, Khanifah, was horrifically assaulted by her employer Zariah Mohd Ali, who would use various items like a hammer, bamboo pole, scissors and a pestle to abuse Khanifah, knocking her teeth out and leading her to suffer permanent disfigurement of her ears, scalp, and shoulders, and scarring all over her body.
Khanifah suffered such grievous injuries – and was not allowed to treat her injuries – over a period of six months in 2012.
The 56-year-old Zariah was finally convicted of 12 charges of voluntarily causing hurt and grievous hurt to Khanifah, in court last Friday. Zariah’s husband, Mohamad Dahlan, was also found guilty of one charge of causing hurt to Khanifah by hitting her head with the cover of a frying pan.
The court heard that the couple had a predominantly good relationship with Khanifah for the first six months of her employment at Woodlands home, starting from November 2011. Zariah, who suffered from a stroke which led to paralysis of her left hand, would only scold the helper if she made mistakes in her work.
Things took a violent turn in the next six months, between June 2012 and December 2012, when Zariah began scolding the maid more frequently and took to physically abusing her. The court heard the following accounts of abuse Khanifah suffered at the hands of Zariah:
Zariah hit Khanifah with a hammer on five occasions. The first time, Zariah hit the helper on the back of her head with the blunt side of the hammer, while she was cleaning the toilet. Khanifah yelled in pain as her head began to bleed. The bleeding did not stop even when Khanifah tried to clean the wound with water and dress it, and Zariah tossed Khanifah a sanitary pad to stop the bleeding. Her wound continued to bleed for months.
Zariah continued hitting Khanifah’s head with a hammer, leading her head wound to reopen and bleed. Zariah would only pass her helper sanitary napkins to clean her wound, and the repeated hits caused Khanifah to suffer permanent scarring on her scalp. Her hair, in the scarred area, had not grown back by July 2013.
The hammer was not just reserved for hitting Khanifah’s head. Zariah used tell Khanifah to bare her teeth in a grin before striking her mouth with the tool, in at least two separate incidents, causing Khanifah’s teeth to fall out, bleeding in her gums to bleed and the swelling of her lips. The assault led to permanent deformation of her mouth.
Zariah also took to swinging a bamboo pole at Khanifah more than twice. The first time, Khanifah’s ear began to swell and bleed after the pole clipped her left ear. Her left ear was again struck in the second bamboo pole attack, resulting in permanent deformation of her left ear.
Zariah attacked Khanifah with a stone pestle on more than five occasions, striking her forehead with the tool and causing bruising and swelling.
Zariah also stabbed Khanifah’s shoulder with a pair of scissors, leaving holes in her t-shirts and causing her shoulders to bleed and scar. This happened more than five different times. When Zariah’s husband questioned Khanifah about the holes on her t-shirt once, Khanifah told him that his wife was the cause of it. The husband showed no reaction, while the wife later gave the helper new shirts to wear.
Dahlan and Zariah have a daughter, Atiqah, and a son who is currently serving his National Service.