Thursday, December 1, 2022

Don’t Blame the Victim

by Maria Franciss Nikole Elli | December 1, 2021

The dinner table became a witness to the nightly brainwashing of the dark shadow that stood in the household. In his proud aura and deep voice, he scares off every breathing soul with his dagger words. Tonight is no different. 

What a pathetic woman you are!” 

Who would have thought that the unwashed dishes by the sink would be the hot topic of interest tonight? By the corner, the wife sobs helplessly as her husband’s dark shadow towered her. 

Slumped in shame and regrets in her in-laws’ house, she stood there silent, absorbing every word he spits. 

Each hot breath that he exhales clouds her mind, why she hadn’t left sooner when there were no kids to be tangled in this mess, yet. In a whirlwind, their courtship memories played on and on. The gust swept away the sweetest words uttered solemnly by a man promising to love his wife for the rest of his life. A mixtape of their sweetest memories stopped playing, and pain started taking over.

“Mommy!!!” A sharp squeal breaks her reverie just as his husband was about to slam the glass plate on her daughter’s face. Fortunately, she was able to shield this away from her innocent daughter who was, unfortunately, shaking and crying at this point. She immediately attended to her, hugged her as if her life depended on it.

In the shackles of marriage and the stigma of gender inequality, women are often receiving the bad end. Two in every three married women experienced emotional, physical, or sexual violence from their alcoholic husbands. In addition, 8% of married women experienced domestic violence within the first two years of marriage.

If these numbers are still not alarming, it should be noted that they do not even paint a full picture yet. A recent increase in the number of reports of violence against women may be attributed to the fact that more Filipinos are now speaking up since the awareness of laws and services is rising.

Each woman’s story of abuse is different. However, it is apparent that these experiences have led to traumas that would haunt them for the rest of their lives. Constrained by the idea that speaking up will cause a public clamor into a woman’s private life, most abused women prefer to stay silent. While some choose to hide their pain and distaste towards their situation, others continue to still process the event months, if not years, after the experience, as they try to come out from these untoward events once and for all. 

In a society where women are often perceived as meek and silent, dissent may be taboo. The battle of ending violence against women begins with dissenting society’s perception of how women should act and behave. And this battle is not only to be fought by those who were abused. It should be a community’s effort to nudge perpetrators into the spotlight of attention so that they get the punishment they deserve.

The next time someone opens up to you about the abuse or violence they experienced, stop asking them, “Why didn’t you speak up about it sooner?” Instead, help them find the right channels to report incidents of abuse and provide a safe space for them. 

Break the cycle of victim-blaming. Stop advising them what they should’ve done because even if you put yourself in their shoes, no one ever comes prepared to act in haunting situations of abuse and violence.

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