When it first happened in 2007, we had already been married for seven years – he had been my senior at the polytechnic and my first love.
Our marriage was on the rocks because I had just discovered that he had been cheating on me with different women for years. And his ongoing infidelity was slowly ripping us apart with frequent quarrels and scuffles.
One night, he started touching my body, as he always did when he wanted sex.
But sex was the last thing on earth I wanted at the time – I wasn’t even sure exactly how many women he had been with. So I pushed him away. He tried again. And I pushed him away again.
That was when he became frustrated. He climbed on top of me and pressed me down roughly. I struggled but he was stronger than me. He kissed me all over and started to force himself on me.
I was helpless.
When he was done, he simply rolled over to his side of the bed and went to sleep, leaving me feeling traumatised.
The next morning, he behaved as if nothing unusual had happened. But I was still reeling in shock and disbelief.
What had happened to the intelligent and attentive man I had known since I was 17, the student leader whom our peers had looked up to?
That night, he was a different man altogether, he was a stranger.
Cracks in an ordinary marriage
I first discovered signs of his infidelity in 2005.
I found photographs of him with a Chinese woman in her 20s on his mobile phone.
Then, when I was spring-cleaning the house before Chinese New Year in 2007, I discovered remittance receipts, a forged divorce document with a fictional woman and an application to marry a mainland Chinese woman in China.
I also stumbled upon sex videos of him with different women, who did not appear to be aware that they were being filmed. The discovery shook me to the core. Despite being married for seven years, I suddenly felt that I didn’t know my husband at all. In the weeks following that discovery, I numbed myself with 16-hour work days, only climbing into bed in the wee hours of the night, when I knew he would be fast asleep. Or I would sleep in my daughter’s room.
I was bitterly confused about my love for him and our marriage, but one thing was clear: I did not want to have sex with him.
The last straw
To keep up with the pretence that our marriage was still normal and to avoid another quarrel, I would make myself sleep in the same bed with him.
At times, he would demand sex.
Whenever I refused, he would shove me down roughly and force himself on me. Each time after he did that, I would feel deeply upset. But I coped with it the best way I could – I told myself to bear it for my daughter.
But he never showed any remorse.
I don’t think it ever occurred to him that what he was doing was hurting me physically and emotionally. Perhaps he felt that as a wife, I should always submit to his sexual desires. At that time, I had never heard of marital rape.
Late one night in October 2007, about nine months after the first rape, he forced himself on me as usual. This time, I snapped.
While he was going at it, I pushed him away with all my strength. He turned violent and we fought. In the scuffle, he slapped and hit me.
I sobbed bitterly and called the police. He didn’t stop me at all.
At the hospital alone, I was treated for my bruises but nothing more. It was simply brushed off as a case of family violence.
There was no mention of any medical examination to assess if I had been sexually assaulted.
At the time, I was too confused and traumatised to think too deeply about the matter. But looking back, I wonder if that omission was because my attacker had been my husband. Since marital rape doesn’t exist as a crime except under certain exceptions, there would have been little use in them documenting the signs of sexual assault.
Instead, it was on the advice of my private investigator that I finally applied for a personal protection order against him.
When he found out about it, he toned down his temper. It was as if he finally understood that I was being serious and would no longer give in to his sexual demands.
But I couldn’t forgive.
I don’t think I will ever understand why he did what he did to me – all I know is that he started raping me after I confronted him about his cheating, so I can only conclude that it all came from a place of rage, guilt or revenge.
I had once harboured hopes of saving the marriage but it came to a point when I just couldn’t bear it anymore.
When he finally moved out early last year, a few weeks after I filed for the personal protection order, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief.
* Name has been changed to protect her identity.
||Get a copy of the November 2009 issue of Her World, Singapore’s No. 1 women’s magazine. Her World is published by SPH Magazines and is available at all newsstands now. Jaclyn Lim is a featureswriter with Her World magazine by SPH Magazines. Check out more stories at Her World online, www.herworld.com