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The battered woman |


The battered woman

The Kris Aquino-Joey Marquez separation started to make news last Sept. 23, and the following day, most Filipinos were hooked on their radio and TV monitors for exclusive interviews about the couple’s stormy separation. From random interviews among the viewers, there appears to be more people empathizing with Kris. As a result of this media blitz, a lot of people were puzzled as to what could possibly provoke a man to beat up the woman he loves. And of course, many more would like to find out why battered women stick it out with their abusive partners. I am pretty sure that many women who have had similar traumatic experiences after viewing the disclosure of Kris Aquino did not just just empathize with Kris but most probably had flashbacks of their own traumatic domestic violence.

What happened to the relationship of these two celebrities is not a rare phenomenon. It can happen in any race and in any religious or socio-economic strata. At the Women’s Desk of the Philippine General Hospital, a total of 2,012 battered women had sought assistance from 1998 to 2002. This figure is just in one government hospital in Metro Manila. I’m afraid there are a lot more battered Filipinas who are scared to report their cases. In the United States, spouse abuse has been estimated to occur in two to 12 million families. In one US study, an estimated 1.8 million battered wives were reported. The figure excluded divorced women and women battered during their dates.

Spouse abuse is said to be more frequent in families with problems of substance abuse, particularly of alcohol and drugs. The etiology is due to multiple factors, behavioral, cultural, intrapsychic and interpersonal. It appears that abusive men come from violent homes where they witnessed the beating up of their mothers or were abused themselves during their childhood by their own fathers. Theorists believe that the act of beating up the spouse is actually reinforcing and so, once a man has beaten up his wife, it is likely that he will do it over and over again. The usual personality profile of the abusive husbands is that they tend to be immature, non-assertive, dependent and they seem to have strong feelings of inadequacy.

Apparently, the bullying behavior of a spouse batterer is designed to humiliate the woman and to build up his own low self-esteem. The impulsive and impatient wife beater physically displaces the aggression provoked by other people onto his wife. Partner abuse may most likely happen when the man feels threatened or frustrated in the home, work or social setting. The psychodynamics of spouse beating includes first the identification with an aggressor (maybe a boss or father). This is followed by a testing behavior (Will my wife stay with me no matter what I do to her?). It also involves the distorted desires of the husband to express his manhood and the dehumanization of the woman, who for the man is now his possessed object. Very similar to rape, aggression towards the woman is deemed as okay or permissible since the man perceives the woman as his sole property. Another US study gave an estimate that 50 percent of battered women grew up in violent homes and most of them were dependent women. It has also been identified that a high-risk period for battering is during pregnancy. The major dilemma of most abused women is looking for a place to go when they decide to leave their homes because of fear for their lives.

The abusive spouse usually wages a relentless campaign to separate or isolate his wife, demean and make her feel worthless. Most men with an antisocial personality can easily manipulate their wives into this situation. A lot of battered women are afraid to leave because of the man’s threatening and intimidating behavior. Some women are afraid to go against their husbands because of their small children and because they are fully dependent financially on their husbands. In the Philippines, women are afraid to leave their husbands because of shame of being labeled as a "separada."

Please take note that the battered women who have been able to leave their abusive partners have a 75 percent greater chance of being killed by their batterers when they reunite with them compared to women who decide to stay. Actually the high percentage of battered women has paved the way for the passing of the anti-stalking law in 1990 in California and so, by 1992, 28 states had passed similar laws.

Can wife battering still be remedied? It is believed that when a man is convinced that his wife will no longer tolerate the situation and when she starts to take steps to exert control over his abusive behavior, he may initiate some changes. The first important step is for the abused wife to get out of the abusive home environment if she is physically and financially capable of doing so. Then she should demand that psychiatric treatment for the abusive partner be a condition for her return to the home. This is imperative to ensure a cycle of improvement. With less impulsive men, calling the police may be enough to modify the behavior. Family therapy is effective in treating the problem resulting from the spouse abuse and this is usually done in close coordination with social and legal agencies. Separate psychiatric treatment for the battered wives will be beneficial especially if they are experiencing acute and post-traumatic stress disorders. It is advisable that children who had witnessed the battering of their moms be likewise given therapy to put a stop to this cycle of violence.

Don’t worry, dear readers, Kris Aquino will pick up the pieces of her shattered self-esteem in time, thanks to the tremendous emotional support system from her family, friends and other groups and definitely a lot faster, with professional help.

(In case you have other problems particularly about love, looks and relationships, do send your letters to The Philippine Star c/o Allure Section or send them directly to Suite 506 Medico Bldg., Lourdes St. cor. San Miguel Ave., Pasig; fax no. 631-38-77; tel. no. 633-38-93; Suite 309 Medical Arts Bldg., St. Luke’s Medical Center, E. Rodriguez Ave., Quezon City; telefax: 723-11-03; e-mail address:;

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