Saturday, March 3, 2012


Violence against women and children” has been defined by Republic Act No. 9262 (VAWC law) as “any act or a series of acts committed by any person against a woman who is his wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child, or against her child whether legitimate or illegitimate, within or without the family abode, which result in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering, or economic abuse including threats of such acts, battery, assault, coercion, harassment or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”

The same law also enumerated certain acts included in the term, to wit:

1. PHYSICAL VIOLENCE - acts that include bodily or physical harm;

2. SEXUAL VIOLENCE - an act which is sexual in nature, committed against a woman or her child which includes, but is not limited to:

a) rape, sexual harassment, acts of lasciviousness, treating a woman or her child as a sex object, making demeaning and sexually suggestive remarks, physically attacking the sexual parts of the victim's body, forcing her/him to watch obscene publications and indecent shows or forcing the woman or her child to do indecent acts and/or make films thereof, forcing the wife and mistress/lover to live in the conjugal home or sleep together in the same room with the abuser;

b) acts causing or attempting to cause the victim to engage in any sexual activity by force, threat of force, physical or other harm or threat of physical or other harm or coercion;

c) Prostituting the woman or child.

3. PSYCHOLOGICAL VIOLENCE - acts or omissions causing or likely to cause mental or emotional suffering of the victim such as but not limited to intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property, public ridicule or humiliation, repeated verbal abuse and mental infidelity. It includes causing or allowing the victim to witness the physical, sexual or psychological abuse of a member of the family to which the victim belongs, or to witness pornography in any form or to witness abusive injury to pets or to unlawful or unwanted deprivation of the right to custody and/or visitation of common children.

4. ECONOMIC ABUSE - acts that make or attempt to make a woman financially dependent which includes, but is not limited to the following:

a) withdrawal of financial support or preventing the victim from engaging in any legitimate profession, occupation, business or activity, except in cases wherein the other spouse/partner objects on valid, serious and moral grounds as defined in Article 73 of the Family Code;

b) deprivation or threat of deprivation of financial resources and the right to the use and enjoyment of the conjugal, community or property owned in common;

c) destroying household property;

d) controlling the victims' own money or properties or solely controlling the conjugal money or properties.

The above enumeration is, of course, not exclusive, as there may be other forms of abuse which “result in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering, or economic abuse.”

For example, psychological abuse should not be merely limited to acts of intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property, public ridicule or humiliation, repeated verbal abuse and mental infidelity. Psychological abuse may also take the form of a husband regularly and strongly criticizing her wife and pointing out her weaknesses (never her strengths) to other people (including her children), which criticisms have the effect of making the wife slowly lose confidence in herself because of the daily tirades from her husband which constantly break her sense of dignity and self-worth. Add to this, the husband’s lack of any attempt at showing his affection for his wife, his refusal to be intimate with her, and his failure to give her a hug when she asks for it.

Some people may refuse to acknowledge the examples I gave above as examples of psychological abuse. They might simply say that a woman affected by the above criticisms from her husband is too sensitive. They might say that the blows to a woman’s dignity and self-worth brought by such criticisms are more imagined than real and that the woman’s concern is the concern of a person who simply lacks attention. The woman might even be viewed as a demanding and unreasonable wife who does not understand that more important things come first other than her need for intimacy and affection.

I beg to disagree.

I think and believe that nothing could be more violent than when a man violates his obligations to his wife. The Family Code states in Article 68 that: “The husband and wife are obliged to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support.” Failure to observe mutual love, respect and fidelity hurts as much as physical violence does moreso if a wife is in love with her husband. The damage to the woman is further aggravated by her continued tolerance and silence over the psychological abuse simply for the purpose of ‘keeping the peace’ in the home. Unfortunately, in most instances however, ‘keeping the peace’, comes at a cost: the woman’s happiness and sanity. I believe, a woman who lives in such a circumstance of abuse should be given the same legal remedy available to a woman suffering from physical abuse.

One could even say that it is quite notable that a violation of any of the obligations between husband and wife by one spouse could give the other a right of action for damages under the abuse of right doctrine which states that: “Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.” By their marriage, the spouses have promised to forever love and respect each other. What could be more unfair and more unjust than a spouse reneging on his marital vow or promise by being guilty of psychological abuse? What could be more hurtful than hearing the one you love berate you and telling you that you don’t have to be intimate anymore because there are “other things” or matters in the family that should be paid more attention to? Nothing.

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