Lockdowns have made it more difficult for victim-survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) to report crimes committed against them. 

Government data shows that the number of cases of GBV and abuse reported to authorities declined during the first month and a half of COVID-19 lockdown measures. “While these figures could mean a reduced prevalence of violence and abuse, it more likely points to something more worrisome—that victims are simply unable to report abuse,” said Lunas Collective chief volunteer Danna Aduna during the launch of FamiLigtas, a campaign that builds awareness about GBV in the home. 

Supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Lunas Collective, a volunteer-powered chat service, the campaign offers support for those seeking help with GBV issues during COVID-19. 

Less than 40% of women who experience violence seeking help of any sort, making data gathering a challenge. Less than 10% of those women seeking help go to the police. The National Demographic and Health Survey 2017 released by the Philippine Statistics Authority revealed that one in four Filipino women aged 15–49 has experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence from their husband or partner. An average of eight people a day have also fallen victim to sexual assault in the country during the community quarantine, according to data from the Philippine National Police. 

The risk for GBV increases due to race, disability, social class, and religion, added Ms. Aduna. Women can be faulted for what they wear or not agreeing with partners or parents, or for talking back in the first place. There’s also intersectionality, or the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) intersect. Those with overlapping oppressions—such as individuals who are both poor and uneducated—have less power. 

Those who are privy to possible abuse may be wary of reporting domestic violence because of the notion that such issues are a private matter. 

Perpetrators work by isolating their victims, said Ms. Aduna, so that the latter feel they cannot escape the violent situation. To help, a friendly greeting can go a long way. “It doesn’t have to be outright intervention,” she said. “Don’t impose solutions on them. The first thing you can offer is support and active listening.” 

“While it’s true that Filipinos love their families, some families are the most hostile and dreadful environments. It’s supposed to be the place where we’re most protected,” said Lolito Tacardon, deputy executive director of the Commission on Population.

To protect their family, parents can start by teaching their children concepts such as consent and healthy boundaries. “You can start by teaching them the difference between good touch and bad touch,” said Ms. Aduna.

Speaking up is a crucial step to ending gender-based violence.

“Regardless of gender, you deserve to be spoken to with respect,” said Miriam Quiambao, entrepreneur, actress, and Miss Universe 1999 runner-up, who was in an abusive relationship. 

“I think I should’ve done things differently,” she added. “I should’ve lifted my hand up and said, ‘Stop, you have no right to call me that. You have no right to raise your voice at me. When you’re ready to speak to me with respect, then we can try to resolve this issue like decent adults.’” — Patricia B. Mirasol

Those with GBV concerns may visit the FamiLigtas Facebook page for more information.

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