Home is No Refuge for Abused Women


Found by relatives on Dec. 5, the body of Jocelyn Diaz-Pernia, 34, showed bruises on the face and stomach and strangulation marks on the neck. Pernia’s case is not unique. She is in fact just one of 12 victims of domestic violence reported everyday.

Pernia’s small concrete house was dim. The only light came from the kitchen window that was left open. It was also empty save for a bed that was left standing in the hall leading to two rooms. In the middle of the second room, a red candleholder stood. It was almost empty but the flame inside managed to give the room a streak of light.

“D’yan sya pinatay” (She was killed there), Victoria Apostol-Pernia, the victim’s mother-in-law, said, pointing to where the lighted candle stood, almost two weeks after the murder.

Joselito Jose, executive officer of the Barangay Services and Development Office (BSDO), said witnesses reported hearing Jocelyn and Elmer argue loudly on the night of Dec. 4.

When found the following day, Jocelyn’s body bore signs of abuse.

“Pasa-pasa ang tyan at mukha. May marka yung leeg na parang sinakal” (There were bruises on the stomach and face. There was a mark on the neck showing she was strangled.), said Jose in an interview with Bulatlat.

In a separate interview, Victoria told Bulatlat that Jocelyn, a seafarer, was scheduled to leave the country on the day she was found dead. Elmer did not want Jocelyn to leave, Victoria admitted.

Police suspect Elmer as the killer. The husband however has not been found.

Jocelyn is one of the countless women-victims of domestic violence. In 2005, the Philippine National Police (PNP) recorded 12 cases of domestic violence every day – or one victim for every two hours.

Violence at home

Jovita Mantaro-Montes, counselor for the women’s group Gabriela (National Alliance of Women’s Organizations in the Philippines), defines domestic violence as “men’s repeated and intended exercise of their power and control over women.” It comes in the form of physical, emotional, psychological, financial and sexual violence, she said.

Violence against women, she added, may be attributed to the culture of machismo and how men think with regards relationships. “Ang tingin ng lalaki sa asawa nya ay isang bagay lang na pag-aari n’ya na dapat ay kontrolado n’ya” (The man regards her wife as an object that he owns and controls.), she said.

Gariela’s Health and Violence Against Women Services Department, of which Mantaro-Montes is coordinator, documented 161 cases of domestic violence from January to October alone this year. More cases were reported to their office in December.

Mantaro-Montes said the severe economic crisis contributes to violence at home. Women bear much of the burden not only in making do with the daily family income but also in bearing their husbands’ outrage. “Syempre kapag walang pera, kadalasan ay mainit ang ulo ng mga lalake at napagbabalingan ng galit yung babae” (When the men do not have money, they unleash their frustration and anger on the women.), she said.

The rise in cases of domestic violence in December may be partly attributed, she said, to the rise in the prices of basic commodities due to the implementation of the Expanded Value Added Tax (EVAT) last Nov. 1.

Aside from bearing domestic abuse, women (wives and children alike) are also forced into prostitution. Gabriela had reported that many women trade sex in exchange for a kilo of rice or some groceries.

Cuts across classes

Last month, television personality Plinky Recto came out to tell her story. A third generation scion of the Recto political clan from the province of Batangas, Plinky sought the help of Gabriela and faced the media to recount her ordeal from her long-time partner.

Recto’s case shows that violence against women cuts across all classes, Mantaro-Montes said. The only difference between poor and wealthy victims is that the former has fewer options.

In one case, Mantaro-Montes said the victim worked as a university professor just like her husband. When she started to get beaten up by her husband, she sought the help of Gabriela. The group advised her to move out of their house.

Leaving the place where the abuse took place provides immediate relief to the victim, explained the counselor. If she continues living in the same house, the victim’s fears will continue to haunt her.

But while victims from rich and prominent families may have an easier way out of the situation, they are also the ones more afraid to talk because of their status in society. For them, it is scandalous to be beaten up by the husband, said Belen Gravides, counselor for the Family Community Healing Center of the Barangay UP Campus in Quezon City.

But battered wives from urban poor communities would rather stay with their husband and bear their misery quietly than leave their abusive husbands, Mantaro-Montes said. This is because they are usually economically dependent on their husbands.

In response to the women’s plight at home, the government enacted the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act (Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-VAWC Act) in 2004.

Gravides said that since the law was implemented, the cases of VAWC in their village decreased from 123 cases last year to 96 cases at present. The men fear the punishment provided by the law, she said.

But Mantaro-Montes said this could not be a general trend since their organization received more complaints this year.

One factor that renders the law inutile in most cases is the fact that the woman needs money to hire the services of a lawyer and file a case in court, the Gabriela counselor said. “For lack of resources, underprivileged women are forced to suffer in silence,” she added.

Pattern of violence

When interviewed by Bulatlat, Apostol-Pernia tried to justify what she called her son’s “crime of passion.”

But toward the end of the interview, Apostol-Pernia, a retired public school teacher, admitted feeling bad for her daughter-in-law. After all, she said, she was a battered wife, too. As her eyes started to well up, she said it was the first time she admitted it to someone else.

“But I’m free now because my husband is already dead,” she said. She suffered for more than 30 years. She thinks her son may have taken a cue from his father.

Although not in a general sense, there seems to be a pattern of violence in the family, Mantaro-Montes said.

In the cases she handled, she said most abusers were children of abused wives or were themselves abused. “Parang cycle, hindi napuputol” (It is like a cycle that doesn’t get broken), she said.

“Nagkakaroon ng tendensiya na gayahin ng bata kung ano ang nakikita nya sa bahay. Kaya yung mga pananakit, nagiging normal na lang sa kanya yan” (The child has a tendency to imitate what he sees at home. If there is violence in the family, the child tends to think that it normal), she added.

Not a safe haven

It is not only the women who are victimized. Some children also suffer from abuse, molestation and rape inside the home, the place where they are supposed to be safe.

In fact, in 2005, Barangay UP Campus recorded 13 cases of child beating, one incest and one rape. The incest case involved a 15-year-old and her father; the other was a 4-year-old raped by a neighbor high on drugs.

Gabriela documented 30 rape cases (including incest) and four child abuse cases, among others, in Metro Manila. Police records however show 12 rape cases a day in the National Capital Region (NCR). In Iloilo there are 24 cases of rape a day or one rape case per hour, said PNP reports.

Region III Municipal Trial Court Judge Dorentino Floresta said in a previous interview with Bulatlat that in 95 percent of the rape cases he handled, the suspect is known to the victim. “Bihira na stranger ang rapist” (The rapist is seldom a stranger to the victim). He also said that the crime is often done inside or near the victim’s house. Oftentimes, the perpetrator is a relative or neighbor of the victim.

Floresta said that in many of its decisions, the Supreme Court cited that lust has no respect for time and place. Bulatlat.com

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