Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles is pushing to include battered husbands and partners of any gender or sexual orientation in the law that criminalizes domestic violence against women and children.
Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act (VAWC) penalizes sexual, physical, psychological and economic abuses committed only against women and children. House Bill No. 4888 wants the same protection for all genders.
What constitutes as domestic violence against men, LGBTs?
Nograles filed House Bill No. 4888 in 2019 seeking to expand the coverage of VAWC and protect men from abuses in the same way that VAWC protects women. HB 4888 classifies the following acts as violence against male, gay, lesbian and transgender partners, and their children:
• Physical violence.
• Sexual violence including rape, sexual harassment, forcing the partner to watch obscenity or porn, forcing them to do indecent acts, prostituting their partner or child.
Diego Silang Movement: Why is it when men are abused they are laughed at?
• Psychological violence or acts that cause mental or emotional suffering in the partner.
• Economic abuse or acts that attempt to make the partner financially dependent on the other.
Diego Silang Movement wants to repeal/amend VAWC
The male advocate group Diego Silang Movement (DSM) co-founder Rom Factolerin, himself a victim of domestic violence and abuse for 12 years, tells PhilSTAR L!fe that the group wants to repeal or amend VAWC because “the law is one-sided and does not recognize the rights of the father since the sole custody of children is granted to the mother even if the abuse isn’t proven yet.”
He adds, “What if the mother, as in many cases, manipulated RA9262? In Cebu there is a case wherein a foreigner married a Filipina. He owns the house and after some time his wife complained about him and threw him out of the house using VAWC, even if the case was not yet being tried in court. The foreigner is now selling pastries on the streets for a living while the woman is enjoying her life with another man in the comfort of the house he bought.”
In an interview with OneNews in 2019, Factolerin says he stayed for 12 years in a marriage that “was filled with physical and verbal abuse, and economic abuse.”
“Nabasag yung nose bridge ko, tinutukan ako ng kutsilyo sa leeg, marami akong kagat sa braso, lagas lagi ang buhok ko, dinuraan ako sa mukha, pinaso ako sa hita, yung anak ko pinakain ng tae, yung daliri niya (ginamitan) ng pliers…”
He reveals to PhilSTAR L!fe that their daughter was seven years old at the time. “She’s now 30 and still suffering from mental problems, undergoing medication and sessions with a psychologist, trying to get by. But she’s okay.”
The abnormal family life has affected his now adult daughter’s relationships too, he says. “The reason my daughter lets her boyfriend cheat on her is because she thinks that ‘hurting her’ is a sign that he loves her, just like the way her mother (my ex-wife) hurt her.”
Despite all this, his wife was still surprised when he told her he was leaving 20 years ago. He “gave her everything she wanted” so that he could leave the marriage.
But peaceful separations, he says, are a very small percentage of ending an abusive relationship.
“Men and women have equal rights in our society, so they say. Let’s put that into practice. Violence knows no gender.”
Abused men, Gabriela’s response to HB 4888
Diego Silang Movement shared with PhilSTAR L!fe cases of men who sought their help but are “not yet capable of opening up publicly because of the stigma” associated with battered men as being “under the saya.”
Some of these men sent pictures of themselves with bruises on their faces or arms, allegedly inflicted by their women partners. They are also asking for advice, legal or otherwise, from DSM (they are referred to lawyers working with the group).
A GMA-7 report last year shows a video from 2018 of a woman hitting her partner in an argument over money. “James” the interviewee says this was not the first time he was assaulted. His lived-in partner, he says, was a jealous woman and once tried to attack him with a knife. Her excuse was “nasapian” and begged him to stay when he finally left her.
Gabriela: In the first place nakakalamang na nga sila, bibigyan mo pa sila ng ibang venue para makalamang?
In the same report, “Charles” says he also experienced abuse from his wife, who hit him, cursed him in private and publicly, and demanded that she have access to his phone to read his messages.
Jang Monte-Hernandez, secretary general of Gabriela Women’s Partylist, says in Tagalog that House Bill No. 4888 is “unnecessary at this time and goes against the spirit of VAWC, which recognizes that women are very vulnerable, and that the culture is still very macho and violent (toward women).”
She adds, that men have “recourse and other remedies, they can file physical injury cases against their abusers. In the first place nakakalamang na nga sila, bibigyan mo pa sila ng ibang venue para makalamang.”
According to the PNP, there are very few cases of male domestic violence being reported because men—like many women—do not want to come out and report their partners.
For both genders, shame and pride (among other reasons) keep the victims from reporting domestic violence and abuse.
Gays, bisexuals, transgenders
According to the Mayo Clinic, gay, bisexual or transgender people can experience domestic violence with a partner through threats to reveal your sexual orientation or gender identity to family, officemates, friends and community. Your partner tells you that the police or authorities won’t help you because of your sexual orientation. Your partner tells you that leaving the relationship means you’re admitting that gay, bisexual, or transgender relationships are deviant. They convince you that men are naturally violent.
“Abusive relationships always involve an imbalance of power and control. An abuser uses intimidating, hurtful words and behaviors to control his or her partner.”
“It might not be easy to recognize domestic violence against men. Early in the relationship, your partner might seem attentive, generous and protective in ways that later turn out to be controlling and frightening. Initially, the abuse might appear as isolated incidents. Your partner might apologize and promise not to abuse you again.”
It’s the same thing with abusive relationships against women—an isolated incident soon or over the years becomes the normal.
Home is not the safest place for everyone
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that with the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, home is not a safe place for everyone.
WHO advises that if you are experiencing violence, reach out to your family, friends and neighbors, or seek support from a hotline.
And—very important—to make a safety plan in case the violence escalates. A safety plan includes identifying a place to run to (neighbor, family, shelter) in case you need to leave the house immediately for safety. Keep a few essential items such as IDs, phone, money, medicines, and clothes available to grab when you leave. Develop a code with a trusted neighbor or friend so they can come to your aid in case of an emergency.
The cultural, gender divide
Emiliano Manahan—who wrote a series of books on empowering men, the elderly, and people with disability—says male domestic abuse affects between 12 and 15 out of 100 couples.
It took decades for women to come out and seek help. It seems it is only now that male domestic abuse is being acknowledged too. But it’s still not being taken as seriously as it should. Unfortunately, our society—including men in this government—is treating gender issues as a laughable matter. The bill is being called both derisively and lightheartedly as the “Under the Saya Law,” “Takusa” (Takot sa Asawa)” or “Yakuza (Yuko sa Asawa).”
Factolerin says, “From a personal level, I hope this bill will bring awareness that men are being abused too and society should do something about it. There are more and more cases happening every day. In our FB group inbox, sometimes it is the mother or sister of the abused man that’s reaching out for help. Also, LGBTQ+ community will benefit from HB 4888 and it should immediately pass into law.”
When women are abused, people condemn the act and the abuser. “Why is it when men are abused they are laughed at?” Factolerin asks.
He says abused Filipino men have nowhere to turn to. “There is no help whatsoever available. I tried to organize a group counseling session with a psychologist but it didn’t materialize takot pa ring lumabas ang mga kalalakihan. Fear of judgment, lalo na kasi ang media pinagtatawanan kami. I suffer mocking up to this day.”