In the communal violence that afflicted Ambon at the end of the 20th century, up to 13,000 men, women and children died, and many more were maimed and injured. Large numbers of people participated in, suffered from or witnessed acts of extreme violence, and many saw family members and friends being killed. Entire communities were driven from their homes and villages.
For the more vulnerable members of the community, particularly women and children, the communal violence often exacerbated violence they experienced at home at the hands of husbands, fathers and brothers. Violence against women in Indonesia is to a large degree not acknowledged or recognized as a problem, as incest, rape and domestic violence are all taboo subjects. Women who are beaten, tortured or abused by their husbands may be isolated from community support.
To provide psychological services to women and others suffering from violence, a group of six female psychologist-activists established the Pulih Foundation in 2001.
One of the worst cases of domestic violence in Ambon involved Santi, whose husband doused her with kerosene and set her on fire. In 2010, activists from Pulih drew attention to Santi’s case in the national media. Plastic surgeon Enrina Diah offered to provide her services without charge, and various donors raised funds to support a series of grueling operations involving many hours of complicated surgical procedures. Following these operations, Santi is now able to care for her son by herself, and to work to support them both.
Here she describes the incident that lead to her disfigurement.