“Mahal, nasasaktan na ako.”

These words are what she would say every time her partner would physically hurt her, hoping he would stop. She has endured all the beatings and abuse from her partner for years because she thought he would one day come to his senses and stop hurting her.

But like the thousands of other victims of violence against women (VAW), Lani (not her real name) was wrong.

Lani met John (not his real name) four years after her ex-husband left her. At first, John was such a kind and loving person, even to her children. But as time passed, John changed. He became sensitive and possessive. Most of the time, his possessiveness led to abuse.

VAW is an act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women. It encompasses all forms of violation of women’s rights, including threats and punishments, mistreatment, harassment, and other forms of control.

In the last four years, VAWC cases in the Cordillera is decreasing. In 2016, Cordillera recorded 1,065 cases; 495 in 2017; 712 in 2018; and listed at least 76 incidents in the first two months of 2019.

In the first eight months of 2018, the regional committee against trafficking, child pornography, and violence against women and children in the Cordillera, recorded 712 cases of VAWC. Among the documented cases, 424 are violence against women, while 298 are violence against children.

Moreover, data shows that Baguio City topped the list with 210 cases; Benguet, 96; Ifugao, 37; Abra, 33; Kalinga, 20; Apayao, 16; and 12 cases in Mountain Province.

Most of the reported cases in Mountain Province include physical, sexual, and economic violence.

According to Fe Toyokan, Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer, physical violence is the intentional use of physical force. Often, reported cases include scratching, pushing, throwing, grabbing, biting, shaking, hair-pulling, slapping, punching, hitting, and other physical activities.

She added that sexual violence is a sexual act that is committed by another person without freely given consent of the victim or against someone unable to refuse. The most common case is the act of lasciviousness.

Economic violence takes place when the abuser takes control and limits the access to individual assets or limits the current or future earning potential of the victim as a strategy of power and control.

Toyokan added that the reported VAW cases are decreasing. Yet, there is a need to further advocacies to achieve a VAW free community. In response, the Municipality has implemented various interventions in attaining a VAW free community. Officials are eyeing the provision of immediate and comprehensive support to survivors of violence. Free or low-cost services such as legal, medical, psychological assistance and shelter, and to coordinate other forms of support services provided by non-government organizations (NGO) shall compose the program.

Also, Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) is providing counseling to the victims. This process helps the victim cope with the trauma they are encountering. Aside from advice, victims are referred to Municipal Police Station (MPS) and Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) for their safety. Victims are also given medical assistance.

Despite the interventions and assistance given by the authorities, some of the abused women are scared to voice out their violent experiences. Their fear comes from threats they receive from their partners.

Like many victims, Lani was afraid to report her abuse because of her partner’s threats. But with some encouragement, she finally found the courage to report her partner.

“And now, I am free–Malaya na ako,” Lani said.

The MSWD encourages victims of VAWC to seek help from their office and to the authorities. This is not just to record such cases but also to give appropriate actions. # nordis.net

(The author is a student of BS Development Communication at Benguet State University who underwent an internship program in Sagada, Mountain Province.)

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