Tutik left her two children reluctantly in 2010 to go back to Malaysia as a domestic helper. The family needed money. Her husband could not find enough construction work in their eastern Indonesian province of Blitar. She had gone to Malaysia ten years earlier without difficulty. But Tutik didn’t have children then and there were no problems with the employer. This second time became two years of regular abuse. She tried to escape early on, but the police took her back. Her Malaysian agent threatened legal action if she tried to run away again. The employer, a single guy who lived with his mother and owned a bakery, repeatedly hit her. He knocked out a front tooth when he hit her with a shoe. Her ear remains deformed from his constant pinching and twisting it. Despite the horrific experience, Tutik may be forced to go abroad again because neither she nor her husband has found work locally.
“Everything I did was considered wrong. The employer was a single guy, in his thirties, who lived with his mother. She has four children but the cruel one lived at home with her. He owned a bakery. Every day I must first clean the whole house and then I must make cake in the bakery. Every day he was angry and hit me, using a wooden or rattan stick. I asked to be sent home early on. He wouldn’t give permission.
“The average time to sleep each night was three hours. At 1 a.m. I would go to bed but I had to wake at 4 a.m. to wash the pans for cake. Then after that I to clean the floors and wash the dishes used the night before. He said, ‘You must work quickly, you can’t be slow.’ I had no help and had to do everything alone. From Monday to Thursday there were not many people to clean up after, but on the weekend they had at least ten people eating there for Chinese feast day. I was slow, he said. He was angry and he hit me with his hand. It felt so painful and I cried constantly. ‘Sir I want to go home. If you think I can’t work, I want to go home.’ He wouldn’t allow me to leave.
“About one year working there, he hit me with a shoe and it knocked out my tooth. I fainted. It happened when another son came home from college and asked for soup. There was soup on the table but he wanted something else. I made him the soup but the brother said it was wrong and he hit me. I was bleeding and lying on the floor. No one helped me. ‘Sir, my tooth is painful,’ I told him. ‘Let it be. You deserve to be hurt because you made a mistake. There was already soup on the table but you took other from the freezer.’
“For three months after that, almost every day he twisted my ear, just being angry. Now my ear is permanently twisted. I had my wrist fractured and fractured my backbone after he hit me with the rattan stick. The mother also would hit me with the rattan stick. The first two times she hit me, she used two wood sticks until they broke. Then she started using the rattan. She was just angry. ‘Tutik, you forgot to heat the soup,’ she might say.
“They lived harmoniously as a family, but they considered me slow in the work. They just treated me like an animal. I had my own room but it was like a storage room. I was given food twice a day. In the morning it was cake and in the evening it was rice, with vegetables fried with onions and salt. Actually, it was not enough. I’d be hungry in the afternoon. But I could not eat anything.
The police took me back
“For two years and three months I stayed there. After the first three weeks working there, I tried to escape to the agent but the police took me back. The police asked, ‘Why do you escape?’ I said, ‘Please, I can’t bear working there. My employer is always angry.’ I called the agent and tried to change the employer. The agent said, ‘If you try to escape again, I will sue you with legal action.’
Then my working permit expired. At midnight I was sent by the employer to a different agent. I stayed one night in someone’s home. In the early morning I was sent to an empty house. I stayed there one day. At 8 p.m. I was loaded onto a vegetable truck covered with plastic and sent to the beach and taken by boat to Batam in Indonesia, in Sumatra. I stayed two days and nights in Batam. After that I was asked at 2 p.m. to board a plane. I was paid in the beginning but then no more. After I returned here, there was insurance given, 50 million rupiah, for the fracture. I was paid 15 million rupiah in salary and the agent took 6 million rupiah. From the insurance, 39 million rupiah was given to me. The other 11 million rupiah was given to an ex-soldier in Jakarta. My mother had asked him for help to get the insurance, but when the money came, he asked for a part it.
“I may go back as a domestic helper. I want to stay home but our economic condition is not good. I have no idea to how to make money. I want to work but my hand is still painful.”