April 29th, 2009

Counsellor’s Notebook: Just a listening ear

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Over 300 women approach AWARE’s team of 9 counsellors every month. This puts our counsellors in the unique position of having an intimate knowledge of the troubles faced by women in Singapore. All details shared with our counsellors are strictly confidential. The following testimonials are reproduced with permission from clients who feel they can help other women by sharing their stories.

“Wee Kiat wasn’t your typical cool, good looking dude that many girls swooned over at school. Instead, he was the nerdy, bookish type that wore glasses that were too big for him. I was not attracted to him initially.

We were in the same Chinese language class and bonded over our common dislike for the language and the teacher. He was witty and had a great sense of humour. We started hanging out during recess and lunch breaks and found that we both enjoyed reading and writing poetry. Our conversations grew and became more intense. We had so much to talk about and shared so much in common: literature, music, the arts.

Coming from an all girls school, I’d never had such an intense relationship with a boy before and it felt strange and unusual for me, yet at the same time it was an exhilarating experience. Even though we felt like a couple, I felt awkward talking about it and was afraid that he might not feel the same way about me. Could it be that he just treated me as a platonic friend? It was a weekday afternoon and the last period for us that day was Chinese Language. The thought of sitting through another boring class in the afternoon heat was unbearable to the both of us. We decided to skip that class and watch a movie in town instead. However, the school gates were locked during that period and we had to crawl under it in order to get out. We ran to the bus stop and quickly got on the bus that would take us to orchard.

My heart was racing as we settled ourselves down on the bus seat. In retrospect, I think the thrill of our act of defiance made me feel closer to him and that was the first time I held his hand. I guess that was when we became an ‘official’ couple.

Several months went by without any major bumps in our relationship. The exams drew near and I started going to his house to study. Wee Kiat’s parents never came back till dinner time as they were both working. This meant that we often had his house to ourselves. Our study sessions started to turn physically intimate and one day, he suggested having sex.

It did not seem out of the ordinary to me and I don’t know why I consented. It was an awkward experience for the both of us and I don’t remember enjoying it very much. After he had sex with me, I started crying. I don’t know why I did. After all, I did not think it was his fault as I did not resist. But somehow I felt really upset about what I did. I could not bear to tell my friends and family about it as I was afraid they would judge me.

I pretended that nothing was wrong in front of my other friends. But deep inside, I felt I had to confide in someone and get it off my chest and work though my feelings about what I did. I remembered I had seen an article in the newspaper several weeks before about a telephone counselling helpline for women. My parents are the sort that don’t throw out old newspapers very often and I set about to look for that article.

I had never thought of approaching counsellors before but thought that was the only way to work out my feelings without revealing my identity. The hotline was the AWARE helpline. When I called the number, I was tentative at first and I think the counsellor could sense that.

However, as our conversation went on, I started to feel more relaxed and started to talk more. All this while, I remember the counsellor was patient, and had a warm re-assuring voice. It certainly made a difference and after talking to her for over an hour, I felt so much better. I didn’t even know what I hoped to achieve from that call—but all I knew was that it gave me the opportunity to talk to someone during a period of confusion and I was happy and relieved that the woman at the end of the phone provided me with that.”

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