Taking Detours in the Road to a Better Life

blanch1981
Posted March 19, 2016 from Philippines

I was sitting on the doorstep of our comfort room at home. I was bawling in bewilderment and pain. The acrid taste of mixed coffee and tears, the pungent smell of nicotine and the pain of the deep wound on my eyebrow and the faint voice of my kids playing and yelling inside the house are the only manifestation of my physical existence. That I am still alive. I mustered on the remaining strength I have. While I wallow in deep frustration that I have nobody to listen to me and comfort me at the moment. That voice that tells me, “unsa man ni nga GAD?” (how come you’re getting yourself in that trouble you’re one of the GAD member) kept coming back to me and it pulled me down like I want to die in an instant. Every time I called someone I thought were my “friends,” it only adds to my burden. For reasons like, “they cannot interfere” or “I must file a case right away to keep him behind the bar and I should never be emotional” or “I should seek petition for a barangay protection order from the barangay captain as provided by the Philippine Law RA 9262 or the Act on Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children”.

And then from inside the house I hear my 9-month old baby crying. That sound made me feel more confused and angry and afraid. My two older kids have no father. They were babies when their father died. And here I am again, confronted with a situation of losing another father of my kid. This time, not by death, but by putting him behind the bar because of what he did to me.

On the other hand, I was certain, I may forego any move that will compel me to confront a new batch of faces to give me my Barangay Protection Order. I don’t want to explain to the medico-legal who will certify that I’ve got a wound and had underwent minor surgery as a result to the physical abuse I’ve got from my partner. I don’t want to insist to the lawyer that I need to execute an affidavit right away. More than that, I don’t want to see familiar faces and acquaintances and will eventually overreact to what happen that may cause more insult to the injury I already had.

Cowardice hovered above me and it consumed all the little strength that was left. In short, the day ends only by going to a private hospital and seek for an outpatient service of minor surgery. I slept with four stitches on my eyebrow. In the next three days, I did not report to the office. I did not do anything about the legal processes I should undergo. I waited until I felt I had enough strength to face people. Until the fourth day, I decided to report to the office and it was like a big bang on me when I realized that despite of my silence and complacency to see important people that will provide me necessary papers for protection against further harm, the whole office knew what happened. And I melted when I found out that even those who belong to the other department knew what happened to me. I am working by the way in a local government unit with 26 departments. I was totally devastated and felt like I was walking dead and without a head.

I felt ashamed. Yes, I am an advocate of women and children. I am part of the local government’s technical working group for Gender and Development program. I know by brain and by heart the Philippine Laws protecting women and children. But it is never an assurance that I can neither be a subject of any subjugation nor I am vulnerable to violence. I realized that my engagement in women's movement is not yet an affirmation of my total consciousness and readiness to create my ideal environment. Truly, I understand every detail of what it takes to assert and pursue non-violence. But just like any other women survivors, my involvement is like putting myself in an incubator. I am yet gathering my own courage and determination. “I am, in fact, a masterpiece in progress.”

I thought that maybe, just maybe. I have learned to empathize and sympathize because I had endured and prevailed so much pains and travails in life that I am here to experience, relearn and rectify. Yes. Yes. Every time I narrate what happen, I am twice conscious about how people react and how people respond. I squirmed in embarrassment because I could read between the lines that they want to blame me for allowing it to happen. While it’s true that I wanted them to put their feet on my shoes, I hold back my shame and look at the situation as if I am not the subject.

While I was confronted with guilt and remorse, I thought about, how can I educate these people in handling and managing women in crisis. How should we respond? What words should we use to cause more injury? And I envision a society that will provide total protection and comfort to women and children in distress. That when she run to the police officer, whether the police officer is a male or a female, she will be assured that she is protected. That she will not be put in a shameful situation. That she will execute her affidavit right in front of the police officer and that affidavit will be enough to provide her legal papers. That she don’t need to be interviewed in every agency that will issue her certification or any documents. That the people surrounding her will stand for her and comfort her while she is yet recovering. That she will not be blamed. That she will be listened to when she is not comfortable. That she will not be forced to work even without legal papers. That the police blotter is enough to support her request for any services or for work leave application.

So that, whoever she is, whatever inclination she is up to, she will be given the space that will help her gain her strength and to thrive. SO that she will be like any fledgling, she may fall, then rise again, fall, and rise again, until she will have the strong wings ready to battle with the storm. So that she will be guided as she take detours to the road of a better life.

Comments 4

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Sally maforchi Mboumien
Mar 19, 2016
Mar 19, 2016

Hmmmmm. Blanch my sister you are just on the point. The situation here is no longer the desire to get Justice because women are aware of the right to justice. The main issue which I believe is everywhere in Africa too is the support from the authority who are in charge of handling such cases. Most workers in such services are so unprofessional probably because they have not been trained. Secondly some of the procedures to follow for legal issues are cumbersome with little or no flexibility.

This situation reminds me of a woman in bamenda who is now mad after 21 years of physical and emotional torture in marriage. This woman at some point went to the mezam division delegation of women empowerment and the family to make a complain.

Following the laid down rule only complainant should write their complains, the agent in charge of receiving complaints asked her to write a complain which made the woman angry. Considering the fact that she was not literate probably because of early marriage, she left the office cursing the agent who too was eager to help but bound by the "text" not to help in writing. Barely a month later the woman was now roaming the street mad. She is just an example among many.

I agree with you that having the services to address GBV is not enough but making it user friendly is paramount.

ARREY- ECHI
Mar 19, 2016
Mar 19, 2016

Knowing what to do is one thing, having the support of the community and the powers that be is another thing. The fight will be easier when all put hands on deck and unitedly fight this. Keep pressing forward!

Stephanie Auxier
Mar 23, 2016
Mar 23, 2016

Blanch,

Your post about violence against women gets to a really important issue - the stigma against women who have experienced violence. Victim blaming exists here in the U.S. too, and discourages so many women from speaking up about what they experienced. 

You are right that the systems in place to protect women needs to be more sensitive. It is great that there are laws and processes in place, but if women don't feel safe and comfortable using them, then the laws will not be effective. 

Thank you for finding the courage to share this difficult story with us, and for being honest with us about the struggle to report your abuse. Remember that you are not alone and this doesn't affect your ability to be a powerful and effective women's rights advocate - you are affected by a system that does not show compassion towards victims, and your reluctance to report the violence is a reaction to that system, and not something to be ashamed of. We are all, as you so beautifully put it "a masterpiece in progress."

Hugs,

Stephanie

Julia O
Mar 27, 2016
Mar 27, 2016

Dear Blanche, Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Your writing is so descriptive and beautiful. You have a real talent with words. I find it so inspiring that even in the midst of a serious personal crisis and horrible situation you were still able to "hold back your shame and view it as if you were a subject." So powerful. The people you help through your job are so lucky to have you. You are proof that all of this can get in situations of violence and that there is nothing to be ashamed of for being in that position. You are so brave to tell your story - to the authorities there and to us. I look forward to reading more from you. All my best wishes, Julia