May Day in May
When the hotline rang that early May morning, the half-awake volunteer on the dawn shift would recall that she was half-expecting another of those prank calls hounding the confidential shelter somewhere in the outskirts of the city.
But this time it was for real: someone was needing help, and soonest.
It was a call from the women’s desk of a police precinct, and the voice at the other end was instructing the volunteer to call another number at a barangay (village).
The village kagawad (councilor) who answered the call begged for a rescue, to come quickly and help a battered wife who had been hiding for hours since the previous evening. Quick before her husband could wake up and pounce on her again.
The volunteer remembered that it was only after the women who had been resting on the bamboo sofa for an hour, raised her head and in a muffled voice, admonished her child to behave did she see how the woman’s face had become a swollen mask of black and purple. “She has lost two front teeth, her cheeks were so swollen so that her eyes were but dark slits. Her body was a map of more contusions and wounds; there were knife marks on the neck, round blisters on her arms where lighted cigarettes had been pressed to scorch flesh,” the volunteer recalled.
Jay and her son, 5, would stay for nine days in the confidential shelter, and as her face and body slowly healed, she began to recall a tale of victimhood. The final hopeful chapter is that of willfulness to leave and start anew, away from the clutches of the ex-policeman who was her husband and chronic abuser for nine years.
During the week, two other battered women would join her, both also seeking refuge in the temporary shelter. All their stories of wanton physical and emotional abuse seem to have been sewn from the same cloth: their partners deal with guns; they are drunkards; they are losers at work; they are so insecure and jealous partners.
So, Eva, jobless, clutching a three-month old infant, and a live-in partner of a security guard twice her age, got the courage to let go.
So, did, Amanda, 45, for 11 years a live-in partner of a man who lived off the produce of her small arm. She came unshod; her dress, torn by the shoulders.
But the circumstances of their temporary salvation were also quite the same: the neighborhood helped them find resolve, a village official knew about the confidential shelter and the police women’s desk helped the woman escape to freedom.
These village officials had taken short courses in gender sensitivity ad manifestations of gender bias. They were also briefed on the Republic Act 9262, The Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act of 2004. They are active in the Bantay Banay (Family Watch). They understand the unique psychodynamics of domestic abuse and violence, and had spread the word in their own communities, and when needed, had acted to help women in real need.
Non-government organizations like Women Action Network for Development (WAND) and its member, Touch Foundation and the City Women Development Council, have provided capability-building and support services like workshops for volunteers running confidential shelters and hotlines, counseling and paralegal assistance since 2001 when the Local Partnership Action Against Gender Violence was established in the wake of the enactment of the RA 9262.
In 2007, the city council has also empowered ordinary citizens to take active part by passing an ordinance that created the City Women Development Code, whose strategies of women empowerment included the implementation of a process of combating gender violence at the local level that was institutionalized by the National Commission on Women.
The ultimate aim of these multi-level efforts is to empower all Filipino communities so that every woman and child would not experience violence in homes and so that abuse and violence could be prevented within families, making each home and family be an authentic refuge where humanity can thrive .