Monday, September 29, 2003

use and abuse

Wife-beating, marital rape, domestic abuse--all forms of violence towards women. Women are constantly perceived as the weaker sex because they are physically weaker, but I believe that in most other aspects, we of the fairer sex can hold our own against men. Take our tolerance for pain and how we can birth 9.9lb babies through normal (non-Caesarian) methods.

In fact, I think it is partly due to this high tolerance for pain that some women can take so much from the men that they love--so much verbal and emotional abuse, even to the point of physical abuse.

I can never imagine being laid a hand upon in anger by a man. I was not brought up that way: my father, though far from perfect, was always a gentleman. My father's temper can flare horribly, but this never boils over to the point of him hurting my mother or any of his daughters. In fact, he has always said that if our husbands would just hurt us, they should just return us to him and Mommy who loved us totally. Kris Aquino also mentioned this in her interview--apparently it's a well-worn line among Filipino families. She has put a face on violence towards women, an unlikely champion, but there are countless more like her who have kept decidedly silent. To put it bluntly, I'm really not concerned about her. She has a powerful and immense support network (double-meaning intended); most women do not.

There are so many stories of battered women leaving their husbands but being so easily won over by renewed courtship and constant promises, only to have their beating at the hands of their husband repeated, if not aggravated. When an incident of this nature hit close to home (too close to home if you ask me), I could not take it. This should not deteriorate into a vicious cycle of hurting and then wooing, which only tends to escalate. Some people are still hoping that things will work out alright for all marriages, and of course I know that marriage is sacred and all that what-God-has-put-together stuff, but there is a line between sacrifice and abuse, and when that line is crossed, I don't think that even God can say that they should still be together.

There are many factors for the prevalence of this problem. It could be genetic, the predisposition to violence. We might blame the parents, for bringing up their sons with a tendency to be violent to women and to treat women like objects or their property. We might blame society for putting a premium on males and coddling them. We might even blame the wives for putting up with their husbands' crap. The main problem, though, in these situations and the aggravation of these situations lie usually in the man not respecting the woman.

Marriage counseling could be suggested, but in these cases, I think that the couples should really live apart for the time being. I don't think a person can change overnight (call me cynical), and if a man's behavior is ingrained enough for him to be able to hurt his wife, then that's definitely going to take some time to undo. For victims in this case, legal and emotional counselling must be undertaken. But more importantly, I think it is the abuser who needs help.

The victims, meanwhile, need someone to run to--they need to have a choice, an alternative to living with their husband, especially if they are non-income earners; and because of this, I'm glad that there are various support groups and crisis centers, because not every daughter can go running back to her parents. But they should be looking at less temporary solutions and more importantly gain confidence in themselves as people, and achieve that level of respect in themselves that their husbands rejected and doused with their abuse.

UNIFEM lists Philippine organizations addressing Violence Against Women here.

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