Domestic violence no laughing matter
MANILA, Philippines - Daiana Menezes, model, actress, and TV host shocked the social media world when she posted pictures of her own arm with bruises and cuts. The photos hinted that she might be a victim of intimate partner abuse.
Were they cries for help? Many believe so. Her pictures even called the attention of DSWD’s Dinky Soliman. “DSWDserves is ready to help,” Soliman tweeted Menezes.
Her husband, outgoing Cagayan de Oro Rep Benjamin “Benjo” Benaldo, was the one who spoke up. In the latest episode of the couple's public drama, he reportedly shot himself. Benaldo said earlier they had settled their differences.
But what is really going on behind those closed doors?
What does Menezes have in common with Ai-Ai delas Alas, Pilita Corrales, Maria Teresa Carlson, and Ruffa Gutierrez? Besides being among very recognizable women in Philippine show business, they may have struggled with some form of domestic violence or intimate partner abuse.
“Intimate partner violence” or domestic violence is when one person in a relationship purposely hurts another person physically, emotionally, and sexually, according to the United Nations.
While these women may be famous, they share a similar story with thousands of women (and some men) nationwide.
Violence no laughing matter for Ai-Ai
The usually jolly comedic actress had tears flowing down her face when she confirmed that her short-lived marriage to Jed Salang had ended.
Ai-Ai said he hit her. “He threw me on the bed, slapped me, and wrestled me,” she said in Filipino on ABS-CBN’s "The Buzz."
The actress’ arguably best known film role was in the comedy series Ang Tanging Ina, which began in 2003. In the film, Ai-Ai played the role of Ina Montecillo, the quirky and hilarious mother of 12 children to 3 dead husbands. As Ina, she had not been the luckiest in her love life.
In real life, Ai-Ai was also unlucky in her love life. She had been dating Salang for over a year before they wed on April 3 in Las Vegas.
Ai-Ai thought she had found what she was looking for and had finally found the perfect fairytale ending, but as it turned out, the joke was on her.
The fairytale is over
“I gave him everything he dreamed of and did everything to make him happy.”
Or so she thought.
A car wasn’t enough for Jed, Ai-Ai said. The fight was over where to celebrate their first monthsary. “He wanted to go to the casino, but I didn’t want to go there because I don’t think it’s good for him,” she lamented. That was when he struck her.
“All I wanted was to have a fairytale. Where we would have happy pictures on Instagram,” she said, but that never happened.
While Ai Ai was able to walk away after a month, in reality, most women don’t.
Only 3 months into the relationship, she was warned by a friend of Salang “that he planned to do this to me from the beginning." She told Boy Abunda, host of The Buzz, "He was just going to get what he wanted from me and then leave me."
Ai-Ai has requested the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to grant a restraining order that would bar Salang from coming closer than 100 to 500 meters of her, her children, and the househelp.
There will be no church wedding on December 8 as they originally planned it. She still loves him, she says, but she claims she won’t stay.
Sultry Cebuana singer Pilita Corrales stayed with her allegedly abusive husband Amado del Paraguay for 10 years before she left him.
“It was very bad, I was beaten up. At one time, I lost my voice and the doctor said it will come back after one month,” Corrales said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Pipol.
She blamed the alcohol.
“Once he would take a drop of alcohol, I would brace myself,” Corrales said, explaining how she would already anticipate when she was going to get hit or beaten up.
The multi-awarded singer has sung with acclaimed international acts like Sammy Davis Jr, The Beatles, and Frank Sinatra, and has produced at least 40 international and local albums in English, Spanish, Tagalog and her native Visayan.
With an illustrious career like hers, it is difficult to imagine she ever suffered such brutal beatings for that long.
Why didn’t she just leave? Even Pilita didn’t seem to know the answer. “I thought if I leave him, I wouldn’t be where I am, I’d have to look for someone else. I don’t want to be alone,” she said.
And now? “The next day I would leave,” Corrales said with confidence. “I won’t stay an hour.”
‘Why doesn’t she leave?’
Experts say loneliness is one reason, but there are more.
The abuser might be in control of the victim’s finances; a lack of support from friends, family or the community; and embarrassment, or shame — especially from victims who are from religious or conservative backgrounds, said Anamabel Garcia, officer-in-charge and counselor of the Women’s Crisis Center (WCC).
“A woman may feel incomplete without her partner. Societal expectations might be too heavy. Also many women internalize the deeply traditional role of the family,” Garcia said.
“Many women would prefer to sacrifice, especially in our country, where family comes first. Women would prefer to sacrifice themselves than risk losing their children,” Garcia said.
Hoping for change makes it all the more difficult to break away from the unhealthy relationship. Intimate partner abuse is not limited to physical violence. Verbal and financial abuse can be just as emotionally damaging as getting hit.
“To end the violence we need to start talking about it,” Garcia said. “We can’t say ‘it’s not my business’ any longer.”
According to the WCC, almost 60 to 70% of reported violence against women involves some sort of physical, emotional, or sexual intimate partner abuse.
It was worse in the 1990s, but even until today, many abused women are ashamed to speak up, Garcia told Rappler.
Garcia said that violence will not stop “if we keep minding our own business.”
“If neighbors hear something, they should let the abuser know they can hear him,” Garcia said. “Everyone in the neighborhood, the men especially, should let him know that violence inside his home is not just his business and will not be tolerated.”
Garcia told Rappler about the successful program in Cebu called “Bantay Banay” ("Family Watch" in Visayan.) The program includes training neighbors to be pro-active in watching out for domestic abuse. “They are supposed to come out and bang on pots and pans if they hear a couple fighting,” Garcia said.
“The next step would be to send the men of the village in to warn him to stop.” It may work for some neighborhoods, but what if the abuser was good at hiding it? Even worse, what if he was a high-profile personality?
An unhappy ending
This may have been the case of Carlson and the reason behind her suicide. Maria Theresa Carlson was a Filipina American beauty queen and actress who married politician Rudy Fariñas. Many suspect that the reason she committed suicide is because of abuse.
Fariñas was just elected mayor of Laoag City and was a fast rising political figure.
The stories of abuse began floating around Ilocos in the 1980s. Maria did not get much help until it was too late.
Fariñas has denied any accusations of abuse.
Carlson’s story partly inspired the introduction and passage of the Anti-Violence against Women and their Children Act of 2004, which criminalizes the act of violence, and carries a prison term and penalties for those convicted.
This law defines domestic violence not just as physical and sexual abuse, but also covers economic and psychological abuse.
The Women and Children Protection Center of the Philippine National Police recorded over 12,000 reported cases of domestic abuse in 2012. And there are probably thousands more that went unreported.
In Metro Manila, the WCC was one of the first organizations founded to help women and children victimized by intimate partners and other forms of abuse.
According to the WCC, one in 5 between the ages of 15 and 49, have experienced some form of physical abuse. About 9.3% of victims report to the police and only 6% seek help from a social service organization.
The law protecting women and children was a first and important step in curbing intimate partner violence in the Philippines.
In a study released by the World Health Organization, 40% of women worldwide were slain by an intimate partner, and being assaulted was the most common kind of violence women experienced.
Lawyer Claire Padilla said there have been bright spots since the law was passed. More women have been filing protection orders and cases against their partners. Before the law was passed, the prescriptive period for causing slight physical injury was 1-30 days in prison. Under RA 9262, the abuser could be imprisoned for up to 30 years.
What about domestic violence against men? According to the Mayo clinic, intimate partner abuse against straight males and those in same-sex relationships happens more often than we think.
This also came up in a recent Rappler Hangout discussion on violence against women.
What can we learn from their stories? That domestic violence cuts through social classes. It can't be kept behind close doors and ignored and it must be fought on every level.
Click here to learn more about domestic violence and resources available. - Rappler.com