Mentally ill woman locked up in chains for 20 years in Aceh

Padang woman with a mental disorder has been locked up and chained in a small room in Aceh for about 20 years by her parents.

The 41-year-old woman, Butet, has been locked up since 1990 while her younger brother, Janter, has suffered the same form of incarceration for 15 years, Bungani Boru Saragih Munthe said.

Butet, who has lived with her aunt since she was a child, grew up a normal girl, but started to show signs of suffering from a mental illness when she was at senior high-school. She said that she was under distress because her aunt always treated her badly, her mother was quoted as saying on Wednesday by

After she graduated from school she could not find a job, and traveled to Jakarta to try her luck. However, she remained jobless. Her mental illness became more serious and she was sent to live with her parents in Kutacane.

Her mother said that Butet often stole things from her neighbors and acted violently.

After the report was made about the neighbors, a military officer forced Butet’s father, Samsudin Purba, to lock her up. She was put in a room measuring 4 by 4 meters behind the house.

One night several men broke into the room and gang raped her.

“Butet told me about what happened, but we did not believe her because she was insane,” the mother said, crying.

In the same room, Butet later delivered a baby, who was immediately given to a childless relative.

After the rape, the parents made several efforts to cure the woman, eventually selling their land, house and valuables to pay for her medical treatment, but to no avail.

Samsudin died in 2005. Not long after Butet was sexually molested, prompting Bungangi to move to Pane district in Simalungun, along with her children in 2006.

In the new surroundings, Butet’s condition improved slightly and she was allowed to communicate with her neighbors. But she remained chained in her room. Her brother, who also suffered from a mental disorder, was locked up in a separate room.

"Good morning, good morning,” Butet said in English as reporters visited her. “Come here, take my picture, I am an artist," she said, switching to Indonesian.

Bungangi, who worked as a traditional masseuse, said she had had another child who used to suffer from a mental disorder, but had recovered and now led a normal life.

She said they had inherited the illness from her husband whose three siblings also suffered from the same mental illness.

Asked why she locked up her children, she said, “At least this way I can see my children die before my eyes, rather than their being killed by people out there”.

She said that the neighbors often gave food to her family, but they never received help from the government.

Pane district head, Jan Petrus, said he did not know that the two residents had been chained up for five years. He said that he had been stationed at the post for two months and had promised to help them.

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