No justification for violence against women | Inquirer Opinion
Safe Space

No justification for violence against women

Last week, Tagaytay police confirmed that actress Ana Jalandoni was rescued and taken to the emergency room after asking her friends for help and sending a photo of herself visibly bruised and injured. Police also confirmed having taken her boyfriend, actor Kit Thompson, to the police station for processing for allegedly injuring and detaining Ana. While a lot of online comments centered around shock and admonishment for physically hurting a woman, there was a significant number who felt it was “expected” or “can’t be helped,” citing rumors that the actress must have done something wrong to justify such actions. “Hindi naman sasaktan kung walang ginawa,” said one commenter while another went as far as saying that they would have done worse given the same situation. Another male commenter accused the public of double standards, claiming that the public would have cheered if this happened to a man.

The reactions shown by the public toward incidents of intimate partner violence prove that we still have a long way to go. One in four Filipino women, aged 15-49, has experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence from their husband or partner, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority in their 2017 National Demographic Health Survey. The pandemic has since seen a further rise in reports of violence against women. It saddens me that celebrating women’s month in 2022 still means defending a woman’s basic right not to be physically abused.

Contrary to what some believe, intimate partner violence (IPV) is never about love. It is all about control and power. IPV happens when the perpetrator believes they are entitled to full control of their partners — and as such, can exercise whatever methods to assert such control. Perpetrators have difficulty accepting that they cannot control their partner’s action and uses violence to force their partners into submission. This is why the perpetrator ultimately blames the victim for their own actions: “Look what you made me do.” “If you didn’t nag, I wouldn’t have hit you.” “If you hadn’t been unfaithful, I wouldn’t have touched you.” This victim-blaming further ingrains to the victim that they are at fault and have caused their abuse to happen, leading the victim to become more compliant and less likely to assert their autonomy.

A worse and more common rationale that perpetrators tell their victims is “I only did this because I love you.” (Chillingly, this is the same rationale some parents insist to their children when justifying corporal punishment.) Even outside of the abuse dynamic, oftentimes people in romantic relationships interchange “loving” and “being loved.” To love someone is to care for that person and wanting them to be happy. How can this urge to love, therefore, ever lead to physically hurting their partner? Instead, perhaps they are actually more focused on “being loved,” which is to be cared for and to be made happy. When their partner’s behavior does not make them happy, they may feel disappointed, upset, or even betrayed. One can then use words to express these emotions. You never need to hurt someone to make your point.

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“Why can’t she just leave?” and “Why did she stay for so long?” are other common questions by bystanders that further serve to blame the victim. Intimate partner violence or domestic violence is a legally tricky situation. As a psychologist, I can legally break confidentiality in the event of a child, elderly, or dependent abuse. Since domestic violence is seen as a situation between two otherwise-capable adults, I am only allowed to intervene only if my client is in imminent danger of being victim to homicide. I cannot force my clients to leave their partners. Unfortunately, women cannot afford to leave for many reasons: societal pressure to keep the family intact has ingrained in the woman that that should be prioritized above her own safety; the belief that children are always better with two parents than one, even if they witness physical violence against their mothers (witnessing violence is also considered child abuse); the financial constraints that the woman will face as she had given up developing her career and income potential due to caring for the home; and the valid fear that she might be more unsafe if she tries to leave. Even without children, some women find it difficult to leave due to the psychological cycle of intimate partner violence: after the violence and abuse, most partners go through a “honeymoon phase” where they become extra sweet and affectionate, with pleas for forgiveness and promises of never doing it again, making the woman hold out hope that perhaps it is only a “one-time thing” or that she can “make him a better person.” At this stage, victims of IPV claim that “he is not always bad; he’s nice when he wants to be.” Hope (that he will change) springs eternal, and the woman is trapped in a gaslighting cycle of abuse and affection.

I sincerely hope that by the time we celebrate Women’s Month in 2023, we are no longer in the business of justifying violence against women.

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TAGS: Anna Christina Tuazon, Safe Space, Violence against women

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