The will to fight
It was a powerful speech that Leni Robredo gave the other day. It was short, simple, and filled with great imagery that depicts the situation our people find themselves in today. It gave the electorate a clear idea of why she is running for president and why the nation is in desperate need of someone like her right now.
Her key message was straightforward: It’s time to leave an abusive relationship. It is time to fight. “He who loves must fight for the loved one.”
As a lawyer, she said: “I remember the multiple cases of domestic violence that I dealt with when I was a practicing lawyer and how my clients endured all the pain and abuse inflicted by their families. partners. When you ask them why they chose to suffer, the answer was constant: their children.
“And I remember when they finally chose to be free, when they found the courage to pack their bags, bring their children and take the first steps towards the door. It is because they understood that if they do not find in them the resolution to leave, their children will inherit only their sufferings. Today I am firmly resolved: we must free ourselves from the current situation. I will fight. We will fight. “
The metaphor she uses refers to the complex situation of countless victims of domestic violence. Without saying so explicitly, she compares the tolerance of the Filipino public for Mr. Duterte’s incompetent and violent presidency to the deep ambivalence that women feel when the men whom they have chosen to love and raise a family have turned out to be. to be dissolved tyrants. They continue to love their abusers, offer excuses for their loathsome behavior, and cling to every little sign that they are deep down a good person.
During a lunch a few weeks ago, my brother Bishop Ambo asked me the same question that has baffled many: how do you explain the seemingly unwavering loyalty to President Duterte of the millions of voters who l chose in 2016 in the hope of a better life? – despite the glaring failure on many fronts of his administration over the past five years? Not to mention the incessant torrent of abuse that emanates from his mouth, and the daily violence that the police forces under his leadership have inflicted on the poorest who form his electoral base.
In short, how can they continue to love someone who not only has betrayed their trust but who also subjects them to incessant intimidation and brutality?
Have you heard of the phenomenon called “battered woman syndrome”? I asked my brother in response. It is a psychological concept that has been recognized in legal proceedings as a valid reason for self-defense. As a theory, the BWS goes a long way in explaining why women who are in an abusive relationship find it difficult to leave that relationship despite the repeated instances of emotional, verbal and physical abuse to which they are subjected.
According to the theory, abused women typically go through repeated cycles of violence that begin with threats, bullying and intimidation, then mature into an acute phase of physical damage and culminate in loving contrition and appeasement. A period of calm temporarily restores the assurances that bind the accused to the aggressor. Until a new cycle begins again.
The psychological effects on the victim are complex. In an effort to understand her partner’s abusive behavior, she may actually start to think that it is all her fault, and so she learns to adjust to her moods and verbal cues. She learns to endure the real blows by imagining her share of responsibility in these incidents. Each time she draws renewed hope from the sweet moments of forgiveness and reconciliation that usually occur after each episode of violence. In no time, she is trapped in a life of abuse with no glimpse of the “learned helplessness” she fell into.
When she finally realizes that she or her children might actually die in the abuser’s next outburst of brutality, she does something she never thought she could do: she kills her oppressor. In the landmark People v. Marivic Genosa (GR No. 135981, January 15, 2004), the Supreme Court recognized, for the first time, the existence of “battered woman syndrome” as a legitimate ground for self-defense. in case of parricide. Although the High Court, in a majority decision, failed to exonerate the accused Genosa, it nonetheless opened the door to her immediate release since she had served the minimum period of her initial sentence.
The Court thanked Genosa’s lawyer, lawyer Katrina Legarda, for bringing the BWS theory to its attention. On March 8, 2004, a day globally celebrated as International Women’s Day, this concept officially became part of Republic Law No.9262: the 2004 Law Against Violence Against Women and their Women. children. Article 26 of this innovative law provides: “Victim – survivors recognized by the courts as suffering from battered woman syndrome do not incur any criminal and civil liability notwithstanding the absence of one of the elements justifying the circumstances of legitimate defense under the revised Criminal Code.
As a woman, as a mother and as a lawyer, Leni has shown her thoughtful understanding of the plight of battered women; it does not judge or blame victims for the bad choices they have made. But she urges them to pack their bags, take the kids and leave – for the sake of the younger ones and theirs – before something more horrific happens.
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