‘I miss seeing my grandson smile’: Domestic helper who became blind due to abuse by S’porean employer , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper
Singapore

‘I miss seeing my grandson smile’: Domestic helper who became blind due to abuse by S’porean employer

The first thing she said when asked about her world suddenly going dark was that she missed seeing her grandson smile.

Ms Sugiyem Samad Radimah, who worked as a domestic worker here, became blind in both eyes after she was tortured and abused by her employer over a period of six months in 2020.

Her left ear also became deformed due to the assaults.

Speaking via a WhatsApp call from her home town of Semarang, Indonesia, Ms Sugiyem, 51, said on Monday: “I feel like I have lost hope. I cannot see the world and I cannot see the smiles of my son and my grandson. I miss seeing their smiles the most.”

She was a single mother when she decided to leave her family in 2019 to work in Singapore so she could save enough money to start a shop selling groceries in Semarang.

She never thought she would not be able to see their faces again upon her return.

Her Singapore employer, Ummi Kalsum Ali, 43, punched her repeatedly, and on one occasion used a clothes hanger to hit her eyes. She was sentenced to 10 years’ jail and fined $4,500 on Oct 25 after pleading guilty to six charges, including voluntarily causing grievous hurt to a maid.

Recalling the harrowing abuse, Ms Sugiyem said: “It was really torture. When it happened, all I could think about was whether I was going to live through it.

“When I became blind in my right eye, I asked my employer if she could call the maid agency so I could go home. She refused, and told me she wanted me to suffer for life.”

Ms Sugiyem’s mobile phone was confiscated and she could not get help as her employer did not allow her to leave the flat.

“I couldn’t do anything. I was helpless and desperate and just trying to do work to let each day pass. I had to touch the floors and the walls to get around because I couldn’t see,” she recalled.

“It was a lot of suffering and I kept crying on the inside. I couldn’t actually cry because if my employer saw tears, she would hit me more,” said Ms Sugiyem, adding that she is unable to forgive her employer for what she had done.

Ms Sugiyem’s employer Ummi Kalsum Ali was sentenced to 10 years’ jail and fined $4,500. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
 

She recalled one occasion when she was beaten just because she looked into a mirror while washing her hands.

“It was small things like that which led to some of the abuse. I’m trying to forget the incidents but I just cannot forgive her yet. Hopefully I will find it in myself to forgive her one day, but I just need time,” said Ms Sugiyem, whose parents died many years ago.

She is still grappling with being blind and is trying to adapt to life in Semarang, where she lives with her son, his wife and her grandson.

Her son, now 30, works as a technician. Her grandson is 11 and in primary school. She and her husband are divorced.

Ms Sugiyem Samad Radimah (centre) speaking with Mr Yosep Tutu, Minister Counsellor of the Indonesian Embassy of Singapore (right) and a CDE case officer in September 2021. PHOTO: CENTRE FOR DOMESTIC EMPLOYEES
 

Ms Sugiyem, whose right eye still hurts, said: “I just eat and sleep everyday. If I need help, I will ask my son or my daughter-in-law. Sometimes I play with my grandson, too.

“I’m still adjusting to my condition. I am getting used to doing daily activities like brushing my teeth and bathing. I just have to touch the walls around the house to figure out where things are placed,” she said.

She is relieved that the court case is over, but added: “When I left Indonesia, I just wanted to earn enough money to open a small shop. Now I can’t.

“But the past cannot be changed, so I’ve learnt to just accept my fate.”

MAID/DOMESTIC WORKERabuseSINGAPORE CRIME