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Ever heard of battered husbands?

February 13, 2008 11:20pm
Roger leaps to his motorcycle and drives as fast as he can do to the nearest hospital. He feels cold. And he can sense the furious stinging as blood drips profusely down his nape that has been ripped open with a sharp piece of a broken glass by no less than his one and only wife.

It's a hazy afternoon and Roger, now 35, still clearly remembers what happened 10 years ago during a fight with his other-half as he shows off the visible scar it left.

"Iba ang misis ko," he says. "Pag galit siya, nagiging bayolente talaga (My wife is different. If she's angry, she can really get violent)."

In the 13 years of their marriage, Roger has seen the best and worst of his wife whose pretty face had made him madly in love with her even right on their first meeting.

At her best, his wife is amorous and doting, pampering him with all the attention she can give. She cooks Roger's favorite meals. She neatly prepares his clothes and things he needs before he goes off to work. And she gives him a warm massage when he comes home exhausted from work.

But she is possessive and jealous. She habitually calls Roger many times in a day to check his whereabouts. And if not satisfied, she calls his officemates too to know if Roger isn't lying. She demands him to come home right after work. And she forbids him from taking a glance at any other woman. If any of these are not met, Roger knows what will happen next.

One time, at midnight after a gimmick with friends, Roger came home with plates and pans flying fast one after another towards him, hitting him in various parts of his body, while his wife shouted curses at him.

The following day, he refused to go to work, not because of the black and blue bruises IN his face and arms, but because he didn't know how to explain these to his colleagues.

"Lalaki ka," he said. "Nakakahiya namang sabihin na binugbog ka ng asawa mo (You're a man. It's a shame to say your wife beat you)."

Roger works in a big and reputable company.

Despite all these, Roger claims that he has never lifted a hand against his wife, saying it wouldn't help at all, especially since there are times that their children are watching while they're fighting. He says he would rather just leave for a while and come back when his wife's anger has mellowed.

"Mahal ko siya dahil kung hindi, dapat iniwan ko na siya (I love her because, if not, I should have left her)."

Police record

Roger has not informed anyone, certainly not the police, about his situation at home.

But police say Roger's case can be classified as domestic violence against men. And there are actual recorded cases in police files.

Supt. Filemon Porciuncula, chief of the Quezon City Police District Crime Laboratory, says in his 10 years as a medico-legal officer, he had only received three cases of men complaining of spousal abuse.

He had personally examined the injuries these men acquired. These are mostly cuts and bruises on the face, head, and arms possibly caused by being hit with hard objects.

He says all these men admitted that this had happened to them several times already before they finally had the courage to go to the police to complain.

"It's maybe our culture," Porciuncula says. "We live in a patriarchal, macho society. It is still a common perception that men are stronger than women. So, a man, even if he's a victim of spousal abuse, refuses to let other people know about his situation for fear that society might think of him as a lesser man."

He says it's the same reason why there are so few of such cases on record. But he quickly adds that the record does not reflect the actual situation, for there may be more, but they're just not willing to come and speak up for fear of public ridicule.

Porciuncula says that these three men didn't actually pursue the cases against their wife.

Biased laws

Philippine laws are biased against men when it comes to domestic violence, lawyer Dexter Lacuanan claims. Lacuanan has defended in court men sued by their wife for alleged domestic violence.

Lacuanan says a man can only file cases of slight physical injuries against his wife when he gets beaten. But a woman, even verbal slurs from her husband, can already merit a case of domestic violence with harsher penalties against her spouse.

The Republic Act No. 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act covers four definitions of violence that a woman can lodge against her spouse:

(1) The physical violence that refers to acts that include bodily harm.

(2)There is sexual violence that pertains to acts, which are sexual in nature.

(3) The psychological violence that refers to acts or omissions causing or likely to cause mental or suffering of the victim such as intimidation and repeated verbal abuse.

(4) There is the economic abuse that makes a man legally liable when he controls his wife's money.

"But it is unheard of a man filing a case against her wife who completely controls his money," Lacuanan says, adding that it is a common practice for men to surrender everything they earn, even their ATM cards, to their wife.

Also under the same law, a mere affidavit suffices the application of a temporary protection order, which requires the respondent to distance himself from the petitioner, and effectively ejecting him from the conjugal house. There is yet a law that gives the same provisions for men.

"There is a selective application of rights," Lacuanan says. "Clearly, there is an unfair advantage in favor of the women."

He claims that the law opens the way for potential abuse.

He says RA 9262 was created amidst perception that women are the weaker sex, but adds that this is no longer true as women now are more conscious about their share of power in households, in the community, and in politics.

Women power

Sociologist Clifford Sorita shares the same opinion with Lacuanan. He says there is now a paradigm shift in the roles of women.

Filipino women are no longer relegated to household chores, but have become more aware of their strength and capacity for dominance.

Sorita says this phenomenon has started to evolve following the end of the agricultural age when at that time, physiological requirements allowed only men to do the labor functions, giving them the leverage in the economic system, and in effect, creating the patriarchal society.

But with the creations of machines and now the advent of technology, women get equal share at work and in the socio-economic strata with men. Feminist movements later came to fore to claim for political and other rights for women.

In the Philippines though, Sorita claims, the idea of feminism that women can do everything what men can is not highly popular. He says the Filipino's culture of strong family ties emphasizes the different but complementary roles of women and men.

"Even in the past when Filipino women were not yet politically recognized, they had already exerted influence over their husband, not through force, but through charm," says Sorita, adding that to some extent, this still holds true today and widely practiced.

Women's group

The women's party-list group Gabriela says the modern era sees a bolder and a more influential woman at home and in various spheres in the society. And it concedes that because of this, there are indeed cases of spousal abuse committed by a woman against her husband.

But Gabriela quickly stresses that, going by statistics, there are way too many women than men who are victims of domestic violence.

Gert Libang, spokesperson of Gabriela, says RA 9262 is meant to protect the wife who is not only subjected to physical but to emotional and psychological injuries as well by her own husband. And rightly so, the law is biased for the woman.

"If men are battered, then like what women did, they should also unite and lobby for a legislation that will protect them from domestic abuses," says Libang.

But she adds that even with RA 9262, there are still a number of women who keep their pain in silence because there remains a perception that women should obey their husband.

Even with the changing world where a woman now goes to work and helps her husband in his duty to provide for the family, she is still, in some corners of the society, expected to do the household chores once she gets home.

"As soon as the woman comes home from work, she has to fix the house, the children, the meals, even if she's tired. And all the husband does is sit, watch TV and wait for the food, and sometimes, has the nerve to criticize her wife for what seems to him an unsavory meal," says Libang.

"The woman, in fury, then would grab her cooking pan and throw it to her husband. You see, there is her vulnerability to be violent."

Libang explains that for as long as the culture of Filipino machismo insists to exist, domestic violence will continue not only for women, but this time, for men as well. The perception of a man being a stronger sex sugarcoats the pain and agony he experiences in a violent home. It deprives him the freedom to discuss his situation with peers and the public sans ridicule.

In the midst of a changing environment, the very culture that raises the man's ego is the very same culture that betrays his own person and his own love. - GMANews.TV