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Female students are not spared from violence


Text by Henrylito D. Tacio

Photo source: thestatesman.com

More often than not, we hear and read about wives suffering from violence against women (VAW). Female students, however, are not spared from such kind of violence. That’s the finding of a study done by Mildred D. Megarbio and Romeo T. Cabarde, Jr.

They have documented the experiences of these female students in Voices of Women on Violence Against Women: A Documentation of VAW Experiences of Female Students in Davao City.

Although it was published in 2007, the book is timely as ever, especially when the country will again observe the 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women, which will start on November 25 and end on December 12.

“The effects of VAW can be far-ranging,” Megarbio and Cabarde wrote. “VAW creates lasting consequences in their physical, mental, emotional and psychological health and even reproductive health such as resulting in miscarriages and unwanted pregnancies.

“Being students, their studies take the toll as a result of VAW,” the researchers added. “Worse is that the experiences even created rifts between and among members in the family and those who experienced it lost their self-concept and a few became sexually promiscuous.”

Let’s take a closer look at the facts and figures of the study.

There were 439 respondents from privately-owned Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) and the state-run University of Southeastern Philippines (USEP). The majority of the respondents (76.3%) heard about VAW, while 26.7% of them do not really know what VAW truly means. “In fact, 35.5% of them cannot identify any specific form of VAW,” the researchers wrote.

But one thing is sure: Almost half of the respondents (44.9%) know someone in school who has experienced some forms of violence, most of which are physical in nature (68.02%). About one-third (31.7%) of them have experienced being humiliated by their teachers in front of the class.

What is interesting is that 29.8% of the respondents heard of someone in school who is engaged in prostitution, one of the forms of exploitation of women.

“The fact that the majority of the respondents have inflicted violence upon another person translates conversely to the number of victims that fell prey to their abuse conduct,” the two researchers wrote.

More than half (51.3%) of the respondents have hit someone. “Most of those whom they hit are their male friends (40%), their brothers (27.56%), and sisters (28%),” the study said. A few dared to hit their parents: father (8.4%) and mother (13.78%).

About 7.3% experienced having sex already, with 68.75% of them having been forced by their partners to engage in sex. On the other side of the coin, more of the respondents (34.38%) admitted that they have also forced their partners to have sex with them.

Aside from the physical bruises, marks, and stains as obvious manifestations, the study also found out these indicators: depression, staring at empty spaces, disturbed, lack of focus in studies, body shivers if in the presence of the perpetrator, becoming man-hater, behavioral changes like being irritable and moody, off tangent answers to questions and unconscious repetition of abusive words they heard from their perpetrators.

What happened to these students who were victims of VAW?

“Despite the difficulties that most of them go through, many of them manage to cope creatively with the problematic situation,” Megarbio and Cabarde wrote. “Most of them would just keep silent through or pretend as if nothing has happened as a means of addressing their worries.

“The friends would be of big help as they usually become the outlets and emotional vents of the victims. Others seek help from parents, local authorities, relatives and even from courts, although a few mentioned that they already lost hope in institutions who can give them support,” the researchers added.

History is replete with accounts of violence against women. As Nobel prize-winning Kofi Anan puts it: “Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. It knows no boundaries and geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress towards equality, development, and peace.”

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993) defines VAW 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.”

Since the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), emerging data and reports from those on the front lines have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, have intensified, UN Women reported.

According to COVID-19 and Violence Against Women: The Evidence Behind the Talk, searches related to physical violence increased significantly between October 2019 and September 2020. Searches using help-seeking keywords increased in almost all countries. Online misogyny rose, including trolling, sexual harassment, and victim-blaming.

VAW against women – whether children, students, housewives, mistresses, and colleagues – must be stopped now. “Violence against women is endemic in every country and culture, causing harm to millions of women and their families, and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization (WHO).

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