Editorial: Exposing emotional abuse

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Monday, March 10, 2014


MANY acts of violence committed against women are not reported. These are not considered as crimes and therefore the law does not intervene.

There is no blood spilled, no crime to be blottered.

And so there is no victim. And because the violence does not involve public figures, there is no media to call the public’s attention on private grief.

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But the violence exists. Emotional abuse, which psychologically harms and scars, is the most common violence suffered by women and children. It is also regarded as the worst kind of abuse.

This is according to Women’s Refuge, a New Zealand non-profit organization, quoted in a GMA News Online article on March 10, 2012.

Many hurts

Most of the cases documented by the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Women and Children Protection Desk (WCPD) involved physical acts of abuse.

On March 8, Sun.Star Cebu’s Jill Tatoy-Rabor reported that of 863 cases recorded in 2013, 755 involved physical injuries, followed by 45 cases of threats and 88 cases of rape.

This figure was triple the record in 2012 because the WCPD included barangay cases in 2013.

With the observance of International Women’s Day on March 8, the WCPD urged women to report when they are abused. However, the WCPD’s PO2 Nora Geramis also said they asked women reporting an abusive partner to think over the matter because his imprisonment may deprive the family of his income.

This insight exposes the dilemma of abused women who might want to end the violence committed against them and their children but are cowed into silence because of their financial dependence on the abuser.

Deprivation of support may even be used as a weapon by intimate partners to silence women or force them into forgiving them and withdrawing their complaint.

What support is society giving to victims of domestic violence who are forced to reconcile with their abusers?

Scars on the inside

Geramis said that WCPD officials are happy when a couple reconciles rather than pushes through with a case. She seems to be oblivious to the predicament of a victim forced to stay in a relationship that may escalate into more violence or her death.

The paucity of options adds to the emotional abuse that is omnipresent in physical acts of violence. According to Dr. Steven Stosny in a Psychology Today article quoted by GMA News Online, living with an abusive partner can damage a partner to the extent of developing a “victim’s identity” that will “destroy one’s sense of self and personal power.”

Belinda (not her real name) was taunted by her common-law husband whenever they quarreled over his lack of a job and failure to provide for their children. She says she felt rage against him and herself whenever, in their fights, he pointed out that she sought to reconcile with him for their children’s sake.

Among the effects of emotional abuse are depression, anxiety and social isolation. During a recent interview with Solita Monsod for the GMA News TV program, “Bawalang Pasaway,” Cristina Ponce Enrile said it was the realization that the affair of her husband, Juan Ponce Enrile, with his chief of staff, Gigi Reyes, had dragged “too long” that made her decide to seek divorce.

It is a searing insight into a “victim’s identity” that the 37 other mistresses Juan reportedly had in 56 years of marriage failed to induce Cristina to leave him. She admitted in the GMA interview that the Reyes affair gave her “anxiety.”

For others, it is not just the feeling of helplessness that overwhelms. Given the difficulty of seeking and getting help, emotionally abused victims withdraw to prohibited drugs, alcohol and food binges.

This self-harm may be the reason why emotional abuse has hidden but long-term, even lasting effects.

Raising women’s awareness of this scourge and providing help for those suffering from “victim’s identity” should challenge all stakeholders seeking to liberate women from all forms of oppression.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 10, 2014.

Opinion

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