Ros is an Indonesian woman who was a domestic slave in Indonesia. She became enslaved after being made a false offer of work by a man who then imprisoned her and physically abused her for four years. Her attempts to run away failed more than once because of the complicity of officials and others in her enslavement. Her narrative suggests that the police deliberately hampered their own investigation and refused to take Ros’ situation seriously. The government has taken some positive steps towards protecting domestic workers. Following pressure from local and international organisations, including Walk Free, the Indonesian House of Representatives recommended the Domestic Workers Protection Bill for its list of priority legislation in 2016. Ros was enslaved without leaving Indonesia, but significant numbers of Indonesians are exploited in forced labor and debt bondage abroad in Asia and the Middle East, primarily in domestic service, factories, construction, and manufacturing, on Malaysian palm oil plantations, and on fishing vessels throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
I am from Nusa Tenggara Timur, Waengapo, East Sumba. I was born in 1985, on 14th May. I was raised by my father and mother. When I was five years old I entered first grade. After first grade, I did not go into the third, fourth, and fifth grade, but immediately jumped to sixth grade from the second grade. I then entered seventh grade when I was eight years old. After graduating from ninth grade, I entered high school. After high school, I refused to go to college, I wanted to work immediately.
I had a friend who asked me to go along with her to Jakarta. She was already working in a hospital. She asked me to work at the Sumber Waras hospital, in Grogol. I was not able to work there at that time because I haven’t validated my high school diploma. My friend told me to work as a cleaning service staff. I did not want to become a cleaning staff. I wanted to do a nursing related job. So she told me if I don’t want to, then I should validate my diploma. But my father did not let me go to Jakarta. I ran away from home. I ran away from home and upon arriving in Jakarta I headed to a church in Kelapa Gading.
There I met with Doctor Suryajaya. He asked where I was working. I answered that I am not currently working, and that I am still looking for work. He asked me what kind of job I wanted have, and I told him that I wanted to work in a hospital. He then said that he owns a clinic, but that it was a private clinic, not government owned, a beauty clinic. I said I am willing to do that kind of work at a place like that.
In the morning I applied for work at the Kresiya clinic. I was accepted and subsequently worked there for two years. At Kresiya I do facial cleansing, as it is a beauty clinic, a skincare clinic. I was assigned to cleanse faces, pluck eyebrows. It was like a beauty salon.
I had been renting board, a room, near the clinic. One afternoon, after returning from work at the clinic, a man called Arifin was at the front of the boarding house. He stood there and asked me, “what bus should I take if I want to go to Daan Mogot?” I told him that I don’t know. He then stood there for a long time. After about half an hour standing there, he asked if he can have some drinking water. I gave him some water. I thought he was a good man, so I gave him water. I gave him water, and then he asked for my cell phone number, which I gave to him. He then asked where I worked. I told him that I worked at the Kresiya clinic. “How much do you make a month?” “I make one million a month.” “How much do you pay for monthly rent?” “375 thousand rupiah.” At that time I only paid 375 thousand for my board, which is cheap. “If you were working for me, you would not have to pay rent. Would you like to be my assistant?” I asked, “What kind of company do you own?” He said that he runs a domestic helper agency in Tanjung Pinang. I said, “if you can offer me a salary more than one million, I would accept your offer.” He offered me a net salary of 1.8 million rupiah, and all my needs including meals he will provide and I will be staying at his house. So I accepted, I went along with him under the promise of a 1.8 million rupiah salary.
On May 23, 2003 I went with Arifin to Tanjung Pinang. Upon arriving, I worked as his assistant for nine months, from May 2003 until February 2004. I worked as his assistant without pay. I asked him why I was not being paid, and said that I come here looking for work. “I did not come here to just sit around like this. I need money. You offered me a job and said you are willing to pay me, so I took you up on your offer.” He answered, “I will pay you your salary later. I am currently keeping it in the bank.” I said that I don’t want my money to be kept in the bank, I want to be given my money now.
He told me that he liked me. I asked him if he has a wife or not. He said no. In Tanjung Pinang he has two homes, one in Pramuka Street and the other in Sutami Street. I stayed at the house at Sutami. His wife stayed in Pramuka. So at that time I did not know he already had a wife.
After nine months I began asking about my salary, and he got mad and hit me. He always hit me using a knife and I always cried afterwards.
After that I tried to escape. I ran and when I got to the port, I was caught by a Navy personnel who was a friend of his, who was under his payroll. I was taken back to the house. I was then locked up in a room, not allowed to go out and be his assistant anymore.
For four years while being locked up in that room I only lived by eating boiled eggs. Even when he was in the house I was locked up. When he goes, I am locked up. The door had four padlocks and he kept them locked, I was not allowed to go outside at all. When he is around and I go into his office, he held me as if I am a thief and should be kept close to him. When he goes to take a shower, I am put back in my room.
He has three wives. The first wife is in Tanjung Pinang at Pramuka Street. The second is in Batam, at Batam Center. The third wife is at Daan Mogot, who owns the Setia Karya Mandiri foundation, in Jakarta. I was his mistress in Tanjung Pinang. When he goes to visit his wives, he locked me up in my room and I only lived on boiled eggs. Only one egg per day, I was not allowed to have two or three, and only one glass of tea per day.
One day I said I want to go outside, but he won’t let me go outside, saying that I would try to run away. I was constantly being beaten in my room, treaded on. Then I got pregnant. Entering the second month of my pregnancy, I was given a Japanese traditional herbal medicine. I miscarried. He lied to me, saying that the medicine is to strengthen the fetus. But in fact it was not to make the fetus stronger but killed it.
He bought me birth control pills. Aside from the pills there were also pink colored pills this big and he told me to drink them. Every time after I took the pills I feel rather numb, like I am not alive anymore, as if this life is empty. That was how I felt.
I continued to take the pills, and I didn’t get pregnant again. I was often beaten. And when I refused to have sex, my feet were once cut, and my back was stabbed with a knife by Arifin. Once I was trying to run to the bathroom, he grabbed my clothes and stabbed me with a knife.
Afterwards I stopped taking the birth control pills and I got pregnant for the second time. I got sick, my stomach hurt and I couldn’t sleep. I vomited. I told him that I missed my period for the second month now. He said he will buy me medicine, but I always refused to drink it, I threw it away.
Eventually I became ill, kept vomiting. I was taken to the Navy hospital. Upon arriving at the hospital I was examined by Dr. Hendrasto and Dr. Muhibah. They examined me and sad that I had appendicitis. I did not believe that I had appendicitis. I was angry and said that I do not have appendicitis. If I did, then I would not be able to bend my right leg. Finally the doctors reexamined me and said that I was pregnant and my fetus was growing outside the womb. Arifin said that I must be operated, insisted that the doctor perform a surgery. I was operated on March 3, 2007 at the navy hospital.
Two days after my operation, I asked the doctor, what was it that I was operated for? I asked Arifin and he told me that I was operated for appendicitis, but I did not believe him. An appendicitis operation would be to the right side, not in the center. I asked the doctor, what kind of operation that I just had. The doctor cried and apologized and kneeled beside me. I was puzzled as to why the doctor was crying. The doctor said that my fetus was removed. I did not accept that, because I don’t want to not have any children. I still want to have children.
I then told the doctor about being held captive for four years by Arifin. And the doctor advised me, when I get out of the hospital I can run away and head for the Mayor’s office. I took his advice. After reaching the house, just after getting out of the car, I ran to the Mayor’s office. After running to the Mayor’s office, the mayor called Arifin and told him to collect me because the Mayor was acquainted with Arifin, he was his good friend.
I was then taken back to Arifin’s house. I asked to be taken to the Bunda apothecary, because the doctor has a practice there. My incision was not sutured using threads, but was held together using staples. But Arifin did not want to spend any money. He said that he will take out the staples by himself. I did not want him to do that because it will hurt. He then bought some alcohol and poured it on my stomach and he took out the staples using pliers. I then started to bleed and I cried. I did not want him to continue. He only got one out and I started to cry. My stomach then swelled at the location of the incision. I cried for two days and two nights, refusing to eat.
I again asked to be taken to Bunda because Dr. Hendra and Dr. Muhibah have a practice there. In the evening I was taken to Bunda. At Bunda my staples were taken out by Dr. Hendra and Dr. Muhibah. We had to pay more than 200 thousand rupiah. After getting back to the house, Arifin beat me because he just had to spend 280 thousand rupiah for medicine and doctor’s fee for taking out the sutures.
Just a short period after my operation he already wanted to have sex. It hurt, I cannot bear the pain. After that he went to Jakarta.
After he returned from Jakarta, arriving at Tanjung Pinang, I was beaten because I did not send him any SMS message. I did not have any credit left on my cell phone card. Before he went off, he only recharged my cell phone card worth 10,000 rupiah.
His daughter often send me SMS, his daughter from his first wife. She cares about me. She calls me Mama Ade. His eldest son defends me. When we were at the police station, he told her farther “You should not treat Mama Ade like that. Mama Ade loves us.” I never hated his children, I only hated Arifin. Even though his three wives hate me, I never hate children, because I know that these children have done nothing wrong. It was their father and mothers who hate me, so I only hated the adults. In fact, I take care of one of his children. His youngest daughter is named Diah. He has seven children here. In Jakarta. The smallest is Diah and I take care of her. So this girl is attached to me. I never bear hatred towards children. His children here are neglected, his wife doesn’t take care of them, so he brought this girl to Tanjung Pinang. I took care of her, until she gained weight. After she became healthy again, he took her back to Jakarta. She still calls me Mama Ade. But now that I have gone to the police, Arifin told his children to pretend that they do not know me. But his eldest son from his first wife, Joni, defended me when I was at the police station. He has four children from his first wife, and five children from his second wife in Batam. He has seven from his wife in Jakarta.
One day when he came back from his wife, he forgot to lock the door. He wanted to take a bath quickly. He shouted from the bathroom to have his clothes ready, and I noticed that the door was open. I also saw that the security guard was not at his post. I then called this one servant who was always nice to me. Her name is Debi. “Deb, please help me. Get me a bag.” She wanted to get a bag from the back of the house, but I told her not to. “Just get me a worker’s bag and put my clothes in it, as I want to run away.” I told the servant to pack my clothes. I went into the bathroom, and he was still taking his bath, his flower bath.
I quickly got out of the house. He then called out to me. He asked, “Is the room door still closed?” “Yes, you locked it.” “Where is the key?” I then pulled out the key from the door and gave it to him in the bathroom and I opened the door. He then told me to turn on the air conditioner and I turned it on. He shouted angrily for me to be quick with his clothes. I then took his money, 400 thousand rupiah, and gave it to the servant so that she keeps quiet. I told her, “if you tell Arifin that I ran away, he probably will cut you up, kill you.” But the servant was kind, she helped me with my bag. I called Dr. Hendra from the front room. I told him that I don’t want to run to the Mayor’s office. Where should I run to now?
The doctor said he’ll call Dr. Lily. Before Dr. Hendra called Ms. Lily, Arifin caught me again. After he caught me again, I begged, and promised him that I would not try to run away again. I asked to be allowed to work. Arifin told me to kiss his feet and lick the soles of his feet, which I did for the sake of my survival.
I was put to work at Gambir Street, caring for the elderly. I was not strong enough to carry elderly persons, my surgical scar was hurting, and it bled every time I tried to pick up an elderly person. My salary was taken by Arifin.
One day after working there for one month, I went to the house at Sutami and Arifin beat me up. I hate him so much, I was angry. I called my friend in Jakarta. His name is Awin. He has a seat in the regional legislative in Batam. I knew him when I was in Jakarta, when I was still working at the clinic. Awin advised me that there was this women empowerment bureau, a women protection organization. I asked him for the number. I called Ms. Lily at two o’clock in the afternoon, and asked her to pick me up at Gambir. Ms. Lily was afraid that she’ll be caught by Arifin, and she was reluctant to pick me up. I was angry at her, “Do you want to help me or not?” So I pressed Ms. Lily to pick me up. She picked me up at Gambir.
Before Ms. Lily arrived at Gambir, I had a fight with my boss who runs the retirement home. I fought with him so that I can get out quickly. “You must go home with your husband.” “No, I can get back to my house on my own. I am his wife, I don’t need to be picked up by him.” “Are you trying to escape?” asked my boss. “No, I’m not trying to run away, I’m going back to my husband’s house.” My boss then let me go.
At 2 o’clock I was picked up by Ms. Lily and I was taken to the shelter. At the shelter, at five o’clock, I asked for an escort from the SBY Committee to pick up my friend at Arifin’s house. There is this female worker there who underwent surgery the same time that I did. Because she was never given medication or treatment of any kind, there was a hole on her body where she was operated on. Her intestines were visible. But I did not see her again, she was hidden. After I asked for an escort from the SBY Committee, they didn’t send anyone there until two days later. They were too late.
I was visited by the Tanjung Pinang District Police Chief. And he advised me to make a report with the police and not be afraid. I told him that I was afraid because I know that Arifin has a lot of power. He can provide strong evidence, present fake witnesses. As it turned out, he did present fake witnesses. His witnesses were all his employees, including the servant who helped me try to escape. The servant actually did not want to testify against me, but she was afraid that she would be beaten or killed by Arifin, so now she sided with Arifin.
His son, Joni, defended me. He said to his father “You must not treat Mama Ade like that. She is your wife. She was never bad to us.” Arifin hit his son, causing his mouth to bleed. But I told his son, “it’s okay, one day your father will get what’s coming to him.”
I was interviewed by reporters. Arifin was also visited by reporters, at his house at Sutami. He turned the facts around. He claimed that he never knew me, he only knew me as his servant. I told them, “that that is what he claims. I’m sorry if I don’t have any evidence and no witnesses.” I admit that I cannot present witnesses, because the ones that I do have are already paid off my Arifin.
Afterwards I made a report with the Polresta. Yesterday the Polresta sent a rejection notice of my charges. They don’t want to accept my charges. My charges of fraud and domestic abuse were rejected by them. I then made a report on the abortion. The Polresta again rejected my report. They say that I was trying to slander Arifin, because they have been paid off by Arifin.
I then was told to go home. I said that I will go home, but I will return to file more charges. The police said that if I don’t have sufficient witnesses and evidence, I would never win. I told them that I will present evidence. I was pregnant with his child, I was held as his captive for four years. I never met any other men. I told that to the police. But they would not believe me, because they are on his payroll. The report that the police recorded is different from the story that I told them. I had been at Tanjung Pinang since 2003. But the police recorded June 2006 in the report. I refused to accept that. But Ms. Lily said to go along with it for the time being. She said that if I decide to file more charges in the future, the police’s misdeeds will be revealed.
I also filed charges of violence with the police. I was cut with a knife, and the hospital at Tanjung Pinang confirmed that there is a scar caused by a sharp object on my back. But the police did not accept it as evidence. They said that this is not a case of violence. So I asked them, “what kind of a case is this?” The police want a blood stained shirt as evidence. It impossible to find a bloodstained shirt from 2004. It is impossible that I still keep it with me. I told the police it would not make sense for me to keep holding to the bloodstained shirt. It would not make sense. If you were in my position, would you keep holding on to that shirt while being kept locked up in a room? But the police insisted to keep looking for that shirt. They also want to look for the knife. But the knife, after Arifin used it to stab my back, was also taken away by him.
Arifin was also scared at that time. As for the charges of fraud. Arifin naturally would throw away evidence of my ever living in his house, but the police insisted that they look for such evidence. I received a letter, saying that the investigation cannot be continued. I only seek damages for my family, for me.
Arifin says he’ll find me wherever I go. Even if I live with the President, he will find me. I said, you can just find me at the Kramat Jati Police Hospital. He said he will meet me this afternoon. I said to him I’ll wait for him. I’ll wait for him with one hundred reporters here.
Narrative as told to an International Organization for Migration (IOM) affiliate in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2007.