Preventing violence against women before it happens
MANILA, Philippines - In the blockbuster "Miss Congeniality," Sandra Bullock's character teaches women how to defend themselves from male attackers. In the Philippines, one female cop is likewise educating her fellow Pinays about how to help themselves -- by knowing their legal rights and how to prevent common crimes before they happen.
While pepper spray and stun guns may help, SPO3 Helen Lapay Dela Cruz believes prevention-education is just as crucial.
During an intimate discussion group, "Talk Safety to Me," on Tuesday, May 22, the multi-awarded police officer outlined ways women can avoid common crimes:
1. Change your routine. "The simple action of deviating your stop-overs or roads to home from your regular commuting routine might discourage would-be stalkers," said Dela Cruz in Filipino.
2. Tuck away your valuables. "When commuting especially at night, always hide any of your gadgets to avoid attracting the eyes of snatchers," she added.
3. Take comfort in a crowd. "Hail a taxi in a place where there’s a security camera which can see you, or in any place where there are lots of people. When there’s a security guard present, ask him to take note of your taxi’s plate number or text it to your relatives especially if you’re coming home late," she advised.
4. Keep cool and pay to take safer modes of transport. "Always pay attention to your surroundings," said the police officer. Dela Cruz believes everyone has an instinct that kicks in when someone suspicious is present or a situation is about to take a turn for the worse. "If you feel the need to stay away from danger, even if it means wasting fares, then do so. Act cool and don’t let yourself plunge into hysterics," she said.
5. Your life is more valuable than your purse. When escape is impossible, don’t try to fight back if you’re not an expert, she said. Let the attacker strip away your gadgets because at the end of the day, your life is a thousand times more precious and it can't be replaced.
6. Read the news. "You really have to be more alert. Be mindful of any new modus operandi hot in the news or social network. Be vigilant and alert. Some might say you’re bordering on paranoia, but at least it’s for the benefit of your well-being and safety," she added.
Shield against violence
Women can take steps to make themselves less vulnerable to common crimes, but according to Dela Cruz the majority of female victims are abused by partners who are "ignorant" of their rights. She said some women don't realize they are being abused while others choose to suffer in silence for the "sake of the family or their kids."
She added that Filipinas are conventionally martyrs by nature. She believes that mentality plays a factor in why many of them are unable to get out of abusive relationships.
She defined abuse. "Abuse is not only limited to physical. There’s also emotional like humiliation, name-calling, or any ways of degrading your character." Another type of abuse is financial, she said, pointing to husbands who don't allow their wives to work or leave the house.
She said not just husbands abuse women, but also employers who are in a position of authority. She pointed out that sexual harassment remains prevalent in the workplace. From 2000 to 2011, the Philippine National Police's (PNP) Women and Children Protection Center recorded 757 cases of sexual harassment, or 5 cases per month.
She spoke about the greatest legal weapon for women and children - Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act. The law is hailed as a complete package that perfectly fills the vacuum of the lack of justice for women before gender-based laws existed.
“We can’t uphold our rights without knowing them,” she stressed. "Getting out of an abuse is a personal call. If you feel you’re being abused, you can get out."
Despite laws to safeguard the rights and welfare of women, domestic violence and sexual harassment remain a prevalent problem in the Philippines. From January 2011 to August 2011 alone, the PNP Women and Children Protection Center recorded 5,989 cases, which translates to 25 cases a day or 1 every 57 minutes and 36 seconds. - Rappler.com
For text and inquiries about women's safety, contact Aling Pulis with this number: 0919-777-7377.
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