Actress and beauty queen Ruffa Gutierrez
How Ruffa Gutierrez handles kids amid abuse from ex-husband Yilmaz Bektas 
Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo ( - June 26, 2019 - 2:08pm

MANILA, Philippines — It has been years since actress and beauty queen Ruffa Gutierrez has been separated from former husband, Turkish businessman Yilmaz Bektas, but she admits that she is still scared of him.

“Would you believe until now I’m still afraid of my ex-husband? Even if he’s invited me so many times to go back, I don’t want to go back because I have this notion in my head that he will kill me,” she disclosed in a recent ABS-CBN interview.

In a phone interview with during her birthday last Monday, Ruffa shared that Yilmaz has been inviting her and her daughters to return to Istanbul. She recalled that there were a lot of times that he invited her to return to Turkey with him because he said he loved her, so she would give her another chance.

But every time she would go with him, the abuses she got from him would get worse. So, as soon as she had the chance to return to the Philippines, she stayed in the country for good.

“My mom, my father and my whole family was there to support me, but I remember it was my mom who really stopped me from going back,” she recounted.

“When my job was weak and my ex-husband was inviting me back to Istanbul and to bring the kids, I was ready to go back. Five, six, seven tickets purchased tickets every month all the time so anytime we can use (them), and my mom said, ‘If you plan to go back to Istanbul, I would run on the runway so the airplane couldn’t leave. They’ll have to run over me’.”

Despite being physically and emotionally abused by her ex-husband, Ruffa teaches her daughters not to be bitter toward their father.

“The example that I want to set to my children is to become strong and independent women and not let anyone put you down, especially, men that they will love one day, and will learn from my lessons and experiences as well,” she said.

“I never criticized their father because he is still their father and without him, they won’t be here right now. I know that my children value peace and know that I’ve been through a lot, and it’s gonna help their future one day as well.”

Although short, she still considers her marriage to Bektas “very productive” as it produced her daughters Lorin and Venice, who are now 15 and 14, respectively. 

She said that despite the distance, her daughters have “a pretty open relationship” with their father.

“Forgive and forget. Especially now that my children are teenagers and I don’t want them hating their father. I don’t want them feeling like they’re not enough because they are. I want them to have a good relationship with their father because it’s also going to be good for them mentally,” Ruffa said.

Nonetheless, she always remind them on what to watch out for should they marry someday.

“I believe I raised my children in a way that they are God-fearing and strong individuals even at their tender young age. I know that they would be wise enough to make the right decision, not yet now because they’re still teenagers, but one day, when they do find a spouse, I already gave them a list (on) what to look for in a man.”

Gender-based violence

Ruffa marked her 45th birthday as a panelist in “Voices Against Violence,” an international training program that seeks to help raise awareness on gender-based violence in the country.

Gender-based violence remains one of the most prevalent epidemics to impact women and girls in Philippines and around the world. According to the 2017 Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 17 percent of women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence since age 15. 

Almost one in four women of the same age group experienced other forms of physical, sexual or emotional violence by their current or most recent husband or partner. Of these statistics, about 41 percent have never sought help or told anyone about their ordeal.

To help end violence against women and girls, Avon Philippines recently launched its new Free as a Butterfly watch, which aims to help raise funds for female victims of abuse under the care of Avon’s partner non-government organizations. 

“I’m very happy that I celebrated my birthday with Avon Foundation for Women. My birthday wish is not only to be happy, healthy and successful, not only for me, but also for my advocacy, (to fight against) violence against women and children. I want all women out there to know that they’re not alone. If they reach out and share their story, someone’s going to be there to help them,” assured Ruffa.

The actress, who has a new ABS-CBN soap opera that will start taping in July, wants to continue doing philanthropy and retire from showbiz at 50.

“I’ve recovered already. I survived. It’s just that there are instances like these when I talk to other women and remember the past, then it opens a lot of wounds in my heart but I believe that I’ve recovered already and I’ve been blessed with so much work to the point that I can forget about the past.”

Likewise, she encouraged other abused women to share their story and call help hotlines.

“It’s not difficult anymore to seek help. I want to let them know that they’re not alone. If I am able to overcome it and I am a celebrity, I have a new life now, I am free, and if I can overcome those troubles in my past, I’m sure that they can as well.”

If you have been abused or know someone who had been, call the following hotlines: Luna Legal Resource Center for Women and Children in Davao at (082) 222-3448, Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (GWAVE) in Dumaguete at (035) 422-8405 or 0915 259 3029, Women’s Care Center, Inc. (WCCI) in Manila at (02) 514-4104 or 0999 577 9631, and Ing Makababaying Aksyon (IMA) in Pampanga at (045) 323-4750.

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