MANILA -- Advocates and experts on domestic violence recently expressed concern over the potential rise in cases of abuse as people are required to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a webinar organized by She Talks Asia and Avon Philippines last Thursday, Senator Risa Hontiveros noted that the additional pressures brought about by the quarantine period make it more difficult for women -- and even men -- to speak up and seek redress or protection from domestic violence.
"On top of that (domestic violence) is the multiple overlay of pressures brought on by having to try to survive the pandemic, a health crisis, and also having to survive the economic and other effects of quarantines or lockdowns," she said.
"When you're on quarantine, you're presuming that you'll be safe," the senator added. "But that is not the case for too large a number of our sisters and children. The numbers may even be underreported also because of the pressures brought about by the pandemic and the quarantines."
Hontiveros went on to mention that it may be harder for survivors of domestic violence to report incidents of abuse to authorities given the pandemic.
"First of all, there's the fact that we're locked down in our houses and there may be no public transport to take if we have to get out of the house. If the abuser is out on an errand, maybe only he or she can leave because he or she is the holder of the quarantine pass. Or once the survivor gets to the barangay or police station, there may not be enough personnel there to attend to their complaint. And not all the personnel may be gender-sensitive or trained to handle these kinds of complaints," she explained.
Atty. Romeo Cabarde Jr., chair of the Board of Trustees of Luna Legal Resource for Women and Children, for his part noted the common reasons why many women choose not to report their experience of domestic violence to authorities, or at the very least leave their abusive partners.
He said many of them believe that breaking up will have a negative effect on their children, while others have become too financially dependent on their violent spouses or partners.
"Many of them ask how will their children grow, and what will be the effects on their children if they grow up without a father. And we always ask them, 'Would it be healthier for your children to grow up seeing their parents always quarreling and almost killing each other?' I don't think that's a healthy situation," Cabarde said.
He continued: "Another reason is they do not have a very supportive community outside their relationship... [For example] When they go back to their parents, malimit sinasabihan sila na, 'Pinasok mo 'yan. Hindi 'yan parang kanin na 'pag sinubo mo at napaso ka, you spit it out.' Or 'pag pupunta sila sa pari, sasabihin, 'What God has put together, let no man put asunder.' Or pupunta sila sa pulis, they will be blamed as well. Or sa friends, sasabihin nila, 'Tiis-tiis lang, friend, makakaraos ka rin sa ganyang sitwasyon.' That's why most of them stay in that abusive relationship."
Aside from Hontiveros and Cabarde, other advocates and experts in the webinar titled #SpeakOut Online Tribe Meet Up include journalist Ana Santos, actress Iza Calzado, Avon Philippines CSR lead Ces Francisco, and She Talks Asia co-founder Lynn Pinugu.
They were one in saying that domestic violence "is not just a private matter but a public crime" as they called on Filipinos to do their part in reporting abuse and empowering victims and survivors.
"We need to educate our women and make them believe that no woman deserves to be treated violently or in a very abusive way. We have to make them believe that as a woman and as a person, they are entitled to all the human rights in the world. And no one, not even the person they love, has the right to hurt them or abuse them," Cabarde said.
"Once they believe that they are entitled to these rights, then I think it would be easier for them to bring the cycle of violence to an end. And that's when they will start reporting to authorities, and even to NGOs who fully understand what they are going through. We need to end the silence of gender-based violence," he ended.