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Violence against women in Cebu on the rise

Whenever I hear about women who are victims in domestic abuse cases, my initial reaction used to be to wonder why these women allowed themselves to become victims. Why don’t they fight back? If not physically – which is harder for obvious reasons – then legally, where they have a fighting chance. One violent incident, one punch, should be enough for them to pack up their bags and their kids and get out of the house and the relationship.

But of course I was (still am) a single woman cocooned by a secure job and an independent life. From where I am, I couldn’t see things from their point of view.

Police records show that violence against women (VAW) cases in Cebu City and Cebu province are on the rise. In 2014, there were 568 physical injuries and 47 psychological abuse cases recorded at the local police stations. By the end of 2015, the cases went up to 846 for physical injuries and 125 for psychological abuse.

Authorities attribute the increase to the fact there are now more empowered women who are filing complaints at the women’s desks in the police stations. Because more women are now aware that there is a law that protects them from abusive partners, and there are government and non-government agencies that they can turn to to help them with free legal and protective services.

Filing a report is one thing. Filing a case is another.

This is what used to baffle me. You see, most of these battered women return to the abusive relationships, even after they’ve been beaten black and blue or emotionally abused. LAW Inc. (Legal Alternatives for Women) is a non-government group that helps abused and battered women in Cebu seek legal remedy in VAW cases. They noted that only a small percentage of the women who seek their help actually end up filing cases against their violent partners. Most women victims still go back to their abusive partners, once the man appeals for them to return with promises that he will change. The case never reaches the court because the woman will forgive. And then the cycle begins again.

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LAW Inc. President Atty. Virginia Palanca-Santiago (2nd from left) discussing VAW issues during the Kapihan sa PIA at RAFI Plenary Hall, Cebu City.

According to LAW Inc. President and former Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Atty. Virginia Palanca-Santiago, one factor why the woman forgives – or is forced to forgive – is because of financial reasons. In a Filipino household, the man is traditionally the breadwinner. When the woman has no work because she’s taking care of the family and the household, she is economically dependent on her husband.

The thought of having to raise her kids on her own and finding a job is probably a more frightening one than the physical and psychological blows and punches she gets from her husband. The bruises will eventually wear off. So she endures.”

(If you still believe that women are the weaker sex, then you don’t know what it takes to suffer through a physically and psychologically crippling relationship.)

So now the dilemma of authorities and women rights advocates is not that women are not aware of their rights and what they need to do when they are violated, it’s how to empower them enough to file cases against abusive partners.

This is where education can help break this cycle of violence. Educated women have higher chances of landing jobs and being employed while being a mother and a wife. Being financially independent gives a woman freedom to choose – to save herself from domestic violence, or to stay because she wants to (maybe out of love).

Most of the victims sadly don’t have that choice.

If you know of someone who is a victim of domestic abuse, please contact LAW, Inc.  or the Women’s Desks in the nearest police station to seek immediate help.

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