Anna* is a childhood friend and always thought of herself as a strong and independent woman. Her father’s untimely death when she was 8 years old changed her family’s circumstances but she trudged on and managed to graduate in college and find a stable job. I never thought she’ll suffer from the impact of domestic violence from her own husband.
She met her husband at work but from her stories everytime we talk, she already mentioned how jealous and controlling he can be. It was already a red flag and I told her about my observations before they got married but she said she couldn’t refuse. Back then he was already blackmailing her about telling her old-fashioned family that she’s living with him.
At first, it was just verbal abuse. He would criticize her for every little thing, call her stupid and worthless, and make her feel like she couldn’t do anything right. Then it began to get physical.
She tried to hide it from their son but his husband also started verbally and emotionally abusing him. The last straw came when he brought home his other woman.
Anna knew she had to fight back for her son. She gathered all her strength and resolved to tell him to leave their house and never come back.. She asked for help and was able to get a restraining order from the court banning her husband from getting near them and going to their house..
*not her real name
Who is impacted the most by domestic violence?
Anna’s story is just one among the millions of women and children suffering abuse from their partners. According to WHO, one in three women (30%) worldwide experienced physical, sexual or mental harm from their sexual intimate partner or non-partner. Globally, one third or 27% of women aged 15-19 are subjected to physical and/or sexual abuse by their intimate sexual partners in their lifetime.
The Philippine Statistics Office’s 2022 Fact Sheet on violence against women shows a decline in cases from 15, 898 in 2019 and 12,492 in 2020. These data are according to the cases reported to the Philippine National Police (PNP). The Department of Social Welfare and Development (CSWD) also reported a decline in cases served from 1,386 in 2019 to 1,035 in 2020.
However, the data presented above only show those reported to the said agencies. The actual incidents and the real impact of domestic violence statistics-wise is likely higher. Many cases remain unreported due to fear, stigma and shame, and lack of support. In fact, Domestic Shelters reported only 30% of victims sought help from designated agencies or authorities and of these, 66% sought help within the family network, citing fear of reprisal and poor confidence and perception of designated authorities as reasons.
What did you mean by domestic violence?
What exactly is domestic violence? Domestic abuse or violence is a global epidemic affecting millions of women and children every year. The United Nation defines domestic violence as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” In simpler terms, domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior used to gain or maintain power or control over an intimate partner.
The impact of domestic violence is widespread and is a pervasive problem affecting many families and individuals all over the world. The exact prevalence is difficult to measure due to unreported or underreported cases and other factors. Studies and surveys can only provide estimates on the scope of the problem but anyone can be a victim of domestic violence regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. However, most domestic abuse is directed mostly at women and children and certain groups like LGBTQ+.
The impact of domestic abuse on women and children is devastating and can have long-lasting and significant consequences on their physical, emotional and psychological well-being. Domestic abuse can take many forms such as physical and sexual violence, emotional, psychological and even financial abuse.
What are the effects of violence on women and children?
Domestic abuse has far-reaching impacts on individuals, families and communities. Victims of abuse can suffer physical injuries such as broken bones, bruises and in some cases, head injuries. They can also experience problems like chronic pain, loss of appetite and sleeping problems. Long-lasting mental health problems like trauma, depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and PTSD are also manifested by victims of domestic abuse.
Impact of abuse on Children
Children who suffered or witnessed domestic violence can exhibit negative behaviors, academic difficulties, aggression, anxiety, depression and trauma. They may have difficulty regulating and controlling their emotions. They either clam up and withdraw or become angry and aggressive when confronted with situations similar to what happens at home. They may also exhibit physical health problems like headaches, digestive problems and stress.
Abused children can become socially isolated because of fear of harassment and ridicule. Some turn to alcohol or drugs to temporarily get away from the problems at home.
Aside from mental and emotional trauma, children may also suffer from physical injuries as well when they are caught up in the violence. These abuses can have long-lasting and profound effects on children’s mental and psychological behaviors.. They may have difficulty forming healthy relationships later in life and may become abusers themselves thinking that abuse is a normal part of relationships. These impacts of domestic violence perpetuates continuing the cycle.
Prevention of Domestic Abuse
Prevention of domestic abuse requires a comprehensive approach and needs the cooperation of several government agencies. Since many people are unaware of its prevalence, education, awareness and support for the victims are key issues to be tackled for programs to be effective.
One way to raise awareness is to promote gender equality not just in work places but in every aspect of the society like education and politics. Challenging traditional gender roles and stereotypes will promote equal opportunities for both men and women and provide avenues for growth.
Another key strategy to prevent the impact of domestic violence is to raise awareness to the public about the signs and effects of abuse. This involves providing support to the victims, training healthcare providers, social workers and law enforcement agencies on how to effectively handle situations or cases of abuse.
It is also important to consider that most cases are unreported or underreported due to stigma and shame. Most often, the victims are blamed and are shamed for speaking out about their ordeal. Victims should be provided with facilities that will keep them safe and offered counseling to help overcome their feelings of guilt and shame.
Support for Victims of Domestic Abuse
Providing support for the victims of domestic abuse is crucial in helping them escape abusive relationships and rebuilding their lives. Victims of abuse may require immediate medical attention, protection from their abusers, shelters and legal assistance. They may also need counseling and other forms of emotional support to cope with the trauma of the abuse and overcome feelings of guilt and shame.
There are many organizations and resources available to help victims of abuse. These include hotlines, shelters, counseling and legal assistance and some offer 24-hour support. There are also private institutions and non-government organizations that assist and support victims of abuse.
At the barangay level, there is the Violence against Women’s (VAW) desk which responds and assists victims in acquiring a Barangay Protection Order (BPO). The Women’s Care Center, Inc. is a non-stock, non-profit private institution that assists women who are victims of abuse and are committed to end violence against women.
There are also helplines available like the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) Crisis Hotline, which provide 24/7 free, compassionate and confidential support over phone for a wide range of mental problems, including domestic violence. To help and support abused women and children in the Philippines, you can join volunteer organizations like the Kaya Responsible Travel which aim to help the future of abused women in the country. They’re looking for volunteers to help teach specialist skills and empower women to be strong and independent. Or you can send donations in cash and in kind to local volunteer organizations that assist abused women and children.
While you’re here, you may also want to check how you can help us, Break Free Ph, to reach more victims of violence against women through the book Break Free: How to Let Go and Move on From an Abusive Relationship.
Anna filed a domestic abuse case against her husband through the help of the PAO. Her account of the abuse and the condition of her son’s mental well-being provided them all the evidence needed to win the case. There is a warrant of arrest for his ex-husband but he is still on the loose.
Anna and her son are now on their way to recovery. They were able to break free from their abuser and fight. They have family and friends who are watching out for them and continues to support them as they rebuild their lives.
Conclusion: Help lessen the impact of abuse and end the cycle
Domestic abuse is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. The impact of these abuses to the women and children are like invisible wounds that will continue to fester if not stopped. It has profound and long-lasting effects on the emotional, psychological and mental well-being of the abused. It impacts not only the victims but the community as well.
The only way to end domestic violence is to take action but it does not end there. To break the cycle of abuse, the victims need to be protected and supported. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, seek help. There are many organizations and resources that offer support for victims like you. Likewise, if you are a witness to the violence or abuse committed, do not keep quiet. It is important to speak up and take action to help end the cycle of violence on women and children.