The New Paper
Monday, Nov 12, 2012
SINGAPORE - After spraining his ankle in a football game, he asked his stepdaughter to help him wash up.
He told her to stand with him in the shower as he stripped naked. As her heart pounded against her chest, she had no choice but to comply as he shouted out instructions like "Faster leh! Help me bathe!"
He then placed her hand on his private parts.
This was in 2001 when she was just 11.
Only years later did she realise that her stepfather had sexually abused her.
But even at her tender age, she knew that what he had forced her to do wasn't normal, and that it was a dirty act.
Now 22, Jasmine (not her real name) makes these allegations of her stepfather's sexual abuse in an autobiography.
The book, published by Marshall Cavendish, recounts Jasmine's downward spiral - how she suffered through the physical and sexual abuse from her stepfather and then joined a gang and abused drugs - and her road to recovery as a resilient young woman.
She told The New Paper on Friday that she decided to write the book to tell teenagers that no matter how bad their problems and struggles are, there is still hope.
"I didn't give up. So I want to tell them that they don't have to give up either," she said.
The book, which features her real name and her picture, is now on sale in major bookstores.
TNP is not revealing her name or the book title for legal reasons.
When contacted, lawyer Chen Chee Yen said that Jasmine's claims in her book could prompt the police to investigate her stepfather for sexual abuse of a minor.
But he also added that her stepfather could sue her for defamation if the incidents recounted in the book are not factual.
Jasmine said the sexual abuse continued for about a year from 2001 to 2002.
Even after it stopped, she said she would live in fear of him as he would also physically abuse her with the cane.
She wrote in the book that she was always waiting for "the monster" to strike again.
And he did in 2004, when she was in Secondary 2.
She recounted how he went to her room on two occasions and fondled her breasts while she was sleeping. Both times, she pretended that she was still asleep.
When he tried it a third time, she decided that she had had enough and grabbed his hand. They struggled for a while before he ran out of her room.
A week after the last incident, Jasmine ran away from home and stayed at a friend's place.
After her mother reported her missing to the police, she was found and taken to the police station.
When her mother arrived at the station, a police officer asked Jasmine why she had run away.
Jasmine told TNP: "I was sobbing so hard and refused to say anything. And then I finally admitted that my stepfather had been abusing me.
"My mother immediately said, 'Don't listen to her. She's lying'."
While hurt, Jasmine wasn't surprised by her mother's words.
She wrote in her book: "I knew it. I just knew she would say that I am lying... It hurt me to the core to have my mother say that I was a liar."
She told TNP: "I felt disappointed and almost resentful towards her in all those years when she didn't believe me."
Her biological father, who was not married to her mother, was in jail when she was born.
Though she had some contact with him subsequently, this stopped when she was about seven. By that time, her mother had married her stepfather.
Jasmine said that because of this, she had never really felt any love and affection.
And this forced her to seek out another "family" in 2005. This was why she joined a gang.
"They gave me something that I never really had before - a family. "I knew they were a bad influence because they had me sniffing glue and taking ecstasy. But at that point, I didn't care," she said.
A year later, she was caught by the police and sent to the Singapore Girls' Home for two years.
It was during this time that she realised she had to turn her life around.
"I was still being influenced by bad company, but my relationship with my mother and grandmother had gradually started to improve," she said.
But it was the death of her grandfather, the only reliable father figure in her life, in 2008, that pushed her to stop all her bad habits.
It was also during that year that her mother finally told Jasmine that she believed her about the sexual abuse.
By then, Jasmine's mother had found out that her husband had been cheating on her, and they were in the midst of a divorce.
Her mother, who was reading Jasmine's book when TNP called her, said: "I feel guilty for not believing her for so long. I'm not sure why I didn't."
The first time the 45-year-old read the book was at a Popular bookstore - and she had burst into tears because she knew that she wasn't there for Jasmine when she needed her the most.
TNP asked Jasmine and her mother for her stepfather's contact details so he could give his side of the story, but they refused.
They said they were afraid that he would ban Jasmine's mother from seeing her two sons, aged 11 and 16, whom she had with him.
Jasmine, who studied up to O levels, now supports herself by doing freelance sales.
She plans to study for a Diploma in Media and Communications in a private institution next year.
During the interview she remained strong as she recounted the painful incidents in a matter-of-fact tone.
Her voice was clear and didn't betray any emotion.
Asked if she breaks down when thinking about her past, she replied: "Not any more.
"I feel that I have been healed, and that's why I don't need to cry."
Mr Chris Newson, the general manager of Marshall Cavendish, said: "We had to publish the book because it was such a dynamic book, explosive in fact. It was a story that needed to be told."
Its marketing manager, Ms Tammy Rip, said: "It is her biography, so it is her take on events that happened in her life."
After years of tumult, Jasmine feels that she is finally in a good place. But there are times when her past returns to haunt her.
Just last month, she "stalked" her biological father on social networking site Facebook and saw that he is now happy with another family.
She said: "I saw a photo of his daughter with a princess birthday cake and I was thinking about where he was during all of my birthdays.
"And when I saw that she had a name that was very similar to mine, I just broke down. I wish I could hate him but I don't."
Thankfully, her relationship with her mother is stronger.
"We treat each other like friends, sometimes even using vulgarities at each other. Even my friends are shocked," said Jasmine.
"Even though she disappointed me earlier in my life, she is still my mother and I will always love her."
Despite her positive attitude now, she knows that she still has many challenges to face.
"I know life will not be a bed of roses, but I just remind myself that it can't be as bad as what I had gone through."