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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, November 9, 2018
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with Matè Espina

Living in fear

Rock & Refuge

In my last column, I mentioned the courage and strength our Negrense women awardees have displayed, deserving of recognition from our provincial government.Their achievements are known to the public and worth emulating.

On the other side of the spectrum, there, too, are women who continue to live in fear until they decide enough is enough and have started their personal battles to free them from the bondage of tyranny within a marriage. They, too, are worthy of praise, albeit silently, for now.

I met one such person recently who felt it was time to make her story public so that other women who live in the same situation may learn and perhaps, join her in her battle.

Violence against women is ever present in our society and though we hear these stories often happening to women who have less in life, it is also happening to women who are economically advantaged and educated.

Since cases are being filed and pending in court, I’d keep her identity secret for now.

I’ve known this woman for several years now. She is known to the public, too, for holding positions in organizations that are familiar to many of us, and she comes from a well-known family that have served Negros in various capacity.

Outwardly, she seemed vivacious enough and you wouldn’t know she’s a victim of violence until she starts telling her story.

After marriage to a man for close to three decades, she is finally calling it quits after constant fear for her life and that of her loved ones since early this year.

In our society, we often frown at people who would dare expose their dirty laundry in public. But if that is what it takes to educate others, this woman’s resolve is firm and part of her own healing process.

Common to all, the marriage started well, until one day she realized she tied the knot with a stranger who, this woman said, was probably influenced by his family members, some of whom are publicly known to enforce violent means.

Their trouble started a decade ago when the husband got economically empowered after living in the shadows of the popularity of his wife and their family. Prior to that, the couple tended the businesses of the wife’s family and have been dependent on that.

Their friends know them as a happy couple, though many now know that evil lurks somewhere, and some have come to her aid even just to keep her emotionally strong.

While she claimed that it hasn’t reached the state of physical violence, she is not waiting for things to blow up and is taking stock of her life and that of her children.

The couple live in the home her family owns but because the husband had the temerity not to step out of their abode, she was the one who left and went back to her parents’ home pending the court cases both have filed against each other.

She narrated how she was followed by her husband to where she’s staying now to dialog and work out their problems, but she refused, locked the door and cowered in her room. When she was telling me this, she looked a bit proud of herself that she was able to shut the door at her husband’s face. But the fact that she cowered back to her room was evident that, indeed, she continues to live in fear and my heart just went out to her.

Her only consolation are her children who are both adults now and who are sticking it out with her and standing against their father.

What made her problem worse, though, is the inaction from the authoritiesfrom whom she sought help.

When she approached a mayor of a town where some of their properties are located, she was told, he can be of no help because he is a friend of the husband’s brother. Unbelievable! Yet this is just an indication that our chief executives, or, at least this one, remain sexist and need to be informed more about Republic Act 9262 which protects the rights of women and children against violence.

Neither were the police of help to him. And to think that all local police departments are supposed to have a VAW-C desk.

When she sought assistance after she knew she was being stalked and learned that goons have been to their farm, scaring their workers who have been in their family for years, the police simply shrugged her concern off as a husband-and-wife squabble that should be resolved in the confines of their home.

These incidents have made her realize she won’t be receiving any help from government officials and our authorities, thus the courts are her last recourse.

But, precisely why it urged her to go public. If someone of her stature gets this treatment from the very people who swore to help women in this situation, what more for those who know less of their rights?

I just hope she’s well enough to finish her battle and be victorious. At this point, all we can offer are prayers and standing by her in this time of need and help her heal emotionally.*

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