Neighbour secretly took pictures of woman being abused
Neighbours shocked at alleged abuse of woman by husband and daughter
For the last five months, he witnessed the abuse of a 58-year-old woman, allegedly at the hands of her husband and her daughter.
Living just next door to the woman, he had been hearing screams of "tolong, tolong" (Malay for help) coming from her flat at night.
The man, who wanted to be known only as Mr Singh, 39, decided to secretly photograph the vile acts committed by the pair, using his mobile phone.
He said he had stood outside the flat and pretended to look away while aiming his camera phone at them.
"I was caught once and the husband argued with me, warning me not to show the pictures to anyone," said Mr Singh.
Last evening, he showed The New Paper the pictures. Every image reflected the fear in the woman's desperate eyes.
She had been beaten with two types of brooms on her soles and mouth. She had been stepped on.
Her husband had pulled her hair. Her daughter had even threatened to hurl a wooden stool at her despite her pleas.
Her suffering would have gone unnoticed if not for a 77-second video taken by another neighbour, Mr Mohammad Juani, going viral after it was uploaded on Monday.
It shows the woman sweeping the corridor outside her Lower Delta Road flat two weeks ago when her daughter, 25, suddenly slapped her four times in the presence of Mr Singh's mother, Madam Asha.
So why didn't Mr Singh or his mother report the abuse to the authorities?
Mr Singh, who is unemployed, said: "Every time I threatened to report, they begged me not to."
He said he had lent his neighbour a few thousand dollars about a year ago. It has yet to be repaid.
Madam Asha said she has given up on trying to intervene.
She said: "When I go next door to help, both mother and daughter would tell me to 'mind my own business'. They would shout and scream at me, and I would run back to my flat."
Describing the slapping incident captured on the video, Madam Asha said she had tried to intervene.
"I told her to stop but she continued to hammer her mother," said the single mother.
The old woman and her family had lived in their two-room unit for the last two years, said Madam Asha.
A note left outside their flat, supposedly written by the daughter, said that her father had run away after owing people a lot of money. The mother and daughter were also in debt.
A 26-year-old man said he made a police report after watching the video on Monday evening. (See report above.)
The police, who showed up at the flat after 8pm on Monday, confirmed the report.
Neighbours reported seeing the old woman being taken to hospital, accompanied by her daughter.
"She is 58 but she looks like a grandmother in her 70s," said Madam Asha, adding that her neighbour appeared to have aged following the alleged abuse.
The woman had a crew cut in the video but Madam Asha said it had nothing to do with the abuse. After discovering she had lice, the woman agreed to let her daughter cut her hair short.
Mr Singh said he has heard the old woman using vulgarities on her daughter and calling her names, sparking the almost-daily fights.
On Monday, Mr Juani uploaded his video clip on Facebook, under the name ApohTecky Numero. It immediately sparked outrage among netizens and prompted the authorities to act.
Despite being told by his mother "not get involved", he said he had reached a tipping point when he saw the woman alone outside her flat.
"I just couldn't take it any more when I saw the frail woman's face. I had to do something," Mr Juani told TNP on Monday night.
The video has gone viral, with about 30,000 shares and 680,000 views as of last night.
Mr Juani, 25, who lives a few doors away from the woman, said: "Almost every morning and night, I see her being struck. The mother never screams but I'm sure she's afraid.
"The worst I have seen was when the daughter rammed the woman's head against a wall."
Mr Juani, who is self-employed, said he did not make a police report as he was afraid nobody would believe him.
He gave his statement to the police yesterday.
The police have classified the case as voluntarily causing hurt and are investigating.
A police spokesman told TNP yesterday: "The police and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) are working closely to ensure the victim receives the necessary care and support."
In a Facebook update last night, MSF said its officers have visited the elderly woman and are looking into the case.
HELPLINES FOR CAREGIVERS
Touch Caregivers Support
Care Corner Project Start (Family Violence Specialist Centre)
Trans Safe Centre
Sage Counselling Centre
Caregiving Welfare Association
NO EXCUSE FOR ABUSING THE ELDERLY
Whatever the context and reasons, hitting old people cannot be justified, Minister of Social and Family Development (MSF) Tan Chuan Jin wrote on Facebook.
After he watched the video of the incident at Lower Delta Road, he said: "We will follow up and make sure that the elderly lady is protected."
He wrote on Facebook: "Please do look out for instances of violence like this. There are vulnerable individuals out there... spousal abuse, child abuse, parental abuse and so on.
"While there can be altercations within families, there are some lines that should not be crossed."
Mr Tan added that the Vulnerable Adults Act, which will be introduced at the end of the year, "will not solve all problems but it will be an important step forward to protect more of our citizens".
According to MSF, about 200 cases of elderly abuse are reported annually. Elderly care professionals contacted by The New Paper said that abuse of the elderly sometimes occurs out of the frustration of caregivers.
But while it is normal for caregivers to be frustrated over their thankless tasks, it is not an excuse for abuse.
Ms Teo Puay Leng, 51, clinical director of O'Joy Care Services, said: "For bedridden elderly in diapers, it takes dedication for caregivers to clean up because it can be very difficult.
"The elderly can be unwilling and the caregivers can lose their tempers, but they still have to clean up."
Caregiving Welfare Association (CWA) president Kelvin Aw, 44, said: "Many caregivers leave their jobs due to the long hours needed to look after the elderly. And as time passes, they don't have resources for support."
These factors can lead to abuse, especially when the caregivers have no one to share their frustrations with.
Mr Aw said: "Rarely are there cases when caregivers are genuinely mean. They are mostly just worn out. Their frustration can reach a tipping point, but it is not an excuse for abuse."
Slapping or hitting the elderly can be extremely harmful as their bones are brittle. But elderly abuse is not just physical or verbal, it can also be financial and emotional.
Ms Teo said: "We see children asking their parents to sell their homes so they can get the money."
- Ang Qing
Netizen makes police report after watching video
A 26-year-old man made a police report on Monday night after he saw a video of an elderly woman getting slapped.
He told The New Paper that he felt angry, sad and worried after watching it. He could not stop thinking of what other abuses the woman could have suffered.
"I think because I live with my sibling, brother-in-law and parents, it made me even more emotional," added the man, who wanted to remain anonymous.
He said that reading the outraged comments by netizens gave him the courage to file the police report.
"If a human being is being abused, we should help in whatever way we can. I really hope all the relevant authorities will come in and help the woman," he added.
Madam Laura Yeo, 34, was also browsing through Facebook on Monday night when she saw the video link shared by one of her friends.
"My first reaction was disbelief that this could happen and I couldn't bear to watch the video," she said.
So she made her husband watch it instead and describe it to her.
Once she got the full details, she reported the case to the Association of Women for Action and Research, a gender equality advocacy group.
"Instead of just commenting, I felt that I needed to go to the authorities to get help for both parties," she said.
Madam Yeo, a senior agency sales director, added that her mother is a caregiver to her grandparents.
"It can get tough when caring for the elderly. I know the kind of stress my mum goes through and I salute her," she said.
As of last night, there were 3,415 likes and 1,310 shares on The New Paper's article of the video.- Teresa Lo