Text by Henrylito D. Tacio
Photo credit: marriagemissions.com
Are husbands battered as much as wives in the Philippines? Yes! In fact, more Filipino men are battered by their wives, according to Dr. Rafael R. Castillo, a columnist of Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Dr. Castillo isn’t cogitating it. His source of information was Emiliano “Nano” Manahan, an antidomestic abuse advocate who is writing a book on the rarely discussed topic. “The incidence of male abuse is on the rise, affecting 12 to 15 out of every 100 couples in the country,” Nano was quoted as saying.
The issue is nothing new. In Davao City, Rene Estorpe pointed out in 2012 that battered husbands do exist. As the president of the Federation of Gender and Development, he cited the cases of two husbands in Agdao Centro, where he was then the barangay chairman.
The two men came to him and complained that they were abused by their wives. Unfortunately, both ended up being charged with violating the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children law or Republic Act No. 9262. “The wives accused them of engaging in illicit affairs,” Estorpe said.
The federation had members from 15 barangays. Out of some 7,000 male constituents in these barangays, most abused or battered husbands were decent types, according to Estorpe.
In his column, Dr. Castillo wrote: “The problem is that the majority of men, who are victims of domestic abuse, don’t even see themselves as victims. They find it difficult to recognize abuse in their relationship, in contrast to women who have a high index of awareness for domestic abuse committed against them or their children.”
But one thing why men seem not to recognize it is because of the image that men are the stronger sex. “Men are more likely to be embarrassed by their abuse, making them less likely to report it,” states the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men website.
As a result, they would just keep the abuse to themselves. “What will people think if they knew I let a woman beat up on me?” one said. Another husband seemed to say it all for men: “I don’t want to be laughed at; no one would believe me.”
In the Philippines, as in most countries around the world, there are laws protecting women and children against domestic violence. However, these laws do not cover “domestic violence committed against man/male partner by an abusive party,” Nano deplores.
“Domestic violence is not about size, gender, or strength,” Jan Brown, executive director and founder of the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men, told WebMD Feature. “It’s about abuse, control, and power, and getting out of dangerous situations and getting help, whether you are a woman being abused, or a man.”
When it comes to domestic violence, wives are not always the victims. “Domestic violence against men is very similar to domestic violence against women,” pointed out Brown. “It can come in the form of physical abuse, emotional, verbal, or financial.”
When Jonathan refused to buy their son’s very expensive toys, his wife punched him in the side of his head and said she would cut off his fingers in the night. The wife also used to smash down the bedroom door where he was hiding, and this happened mainly in front of their children.
Fernando is already in his ’80s, but it didn’t stop his 75-year-old wife to beat him several times with a bamboo stick. “It was so disgraceful that she has to beat me in public,” said the old man, who sought assistance from an authority, as he could no longer bear the spousal abuse. Previous to that incident, his wife would throw stones at him. There was also a time when she strangled him.
Earl, a 46-year-old doctor in Cebu, is severely beaten by his wife once or twice a year. He keeps cosmetics at home and in his clinic to cover up the bruises and face bites. At one time, his secretary saw a bruise in his left hand and asked him what happened. He told her that it was caused by accident.
Should a battered husband suffer in silence? Or should he hit back at her? Here’s one opinion, “Like it or not, authorities are very, very biased against men – what do you think is going to happen if the police show up and a man says, ‘She hit me first. I was defending myself’? She is going to say that you hit her first, and they are going to take her word for it and haul you off. So, make darn sure that hitting back is your absolute last resort.”
A battered wife replies, “If you are being hit, please leave. Trust me it will only get worse. My husband kept promising he would stop but he didn’t. It got worse to the point he threw a chair at our two-year-old daughter. We had to flee for her safety in our sleeping garments. I suffered for eight years and it was eight years of my life wasted. I wish I had left after the first punch.”
Another one has this advice, “It’s totally wrong whether man or woman is abused. Don’t suffer in silence. Get out now. Regardless of whether she says she won’t do it again. Don’t be embarrassed. Sadly, it’s a sad state of society today that men are also being abused. But don’t hit back – you are then lowering yourself to her level. You will be the bigger person if you leave without resorting to violence aimed at her.”
WebMD Feature shares the following steps men who are being abused can do:
· “Never allow yourself to be provoked into any kind of retaliation,” says Brown. “We tell men if they have to be in an argument, do it in a room with two doors so they can leave; a lot of times a woman will block the door, the man will try to move her, and that will be enough for him to get arrested.”
· “Document everything,” writes Philip Cook, author of Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence. “Go to your doctor and tell him what happened, even if he doesn’t ask how you were injured. Take photographs of your injuries, and make sure if the police are called that they take a report, and get a copy of the report for yourself.”
· “Work with an advocate from a domestic violence program to get a restraining order,” says Brown. “Not only will this help protect you from an abusive partner, but it will also allow you to ask for temporary custody of your children in order to protect them from the domestic violence.”
· Get counseling so you can start healing, and get legal advice, says Cook.
· Talk with your family and friends who can help support you. “They will understand,” says Brown.
“I support Nano’s advocacy that we should bring the problem of male abuse out in the open as a serious issue,” Dr. Castillo wrote. “Men who are victims of domestic abuse should muster the courage to speak up and seek help.”