Sunday, July 22, 2007

Legal lessons from Willie Revillame and Liz Amoro; emotional abuse, and psychological violence

Everyone in the Philippines has probably read, heard or seen in newspapers, radio and television reports about the ongoing court battle between popular TV host Willie Revillame and his estranged wife Liz Amoro. They're locked in a court battle for declaration of nullity of their marriage, and last week, Willie had to post bail after Liz's criminal complaint for psychological violence under Republic Act 9262 was filed in court. It's terribly sad to see two people who previously loved each other standing toe-to-toe in a bitter court battle.

The only good thing perhaps out of this issue is that through the wide media coverage (of what is supposedly confidential proceedings!) Filipinos are learning a lot about RA 9262, our country's landmark law on domestic violence. The National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women and various women's groups fought and worked patiently for ten years before RA 9262 became law. Summer 2005, through the DSWD Region IV-A, I conducted seminars in RA 9262 for barangay officials, day care center workers, etc. in Laguna (Victoria, Alaminos, Lumban, Kalayaan), Sto. Tomas, Batangas, and Cavite City.

Psychological violence under RA 9262

As I mentioned above, according to media reports, Liz filed a criminal case for "psychological violence" against Willie. RA 9262 penalizes “psychological violence” committed against a woman and/or her children by her intimate partner. Section 3 of RA 9262 provides:

“Psychological Violence” refers to acts or omissions causing or likely to cause mental or emotional suffering of the victim such as but not limited to:

[1] intimidation
[2] harassment
[3] stalking
[4] damage to property
[5] public ridicule or humiliation
[6] repeated verbal abuse
[7] marital infidelity
[8] causing or allowing the victim to witness the physical, sexual or psychological abuse of a member of a family to which the victim belongs
[9] causing victim to witness pornography in any form or to witness abusive injury to pets
[10] unlawful or unwanted deprivation of the right to custody and/or visitation of common children.
In my lectures on RA 9262, I have pointed out that "psychological violence" or "emotional abuse" is quite broad and open to misuse. What guarantees, however, protection for men charged with psychological violence is the 1987 Constitution's provision for the presumption of innocence.

Effects of psychological or emotional abuse

Neil Jacobson and John Gottman in their study “When Men Batter Women” relate the insidious effects of psychological or emotional abuse as follows:
[1] “Emotional abuse is harder to live with than being beaten and it means something different to women when it occurs with physical abuse.”
[2] “Despite the pain and bruises inflicted by punching, kicking and worse mayhem, it is the scarring left by an emotionally abusive husband that is more likely to trigger a battered wife’s decision to leave her spouse.”
[3] “Emotional abuse is more oppressive, particularly when it is frequent. It can be present every day, every waking hour, 24 hours a day. What men are doing with emotional abuse is almost like mind control.”
Patricia Evans’ book “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” (published in 1996) is considered to be the most definitive resource on the topic of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse checklist

ALIVE provides an “emotional abuse checklist” based on “Getting Free: A Handbook for Women in Abusive Relationships” written by Ginny NiCarthy (Seal Press, 1982). The emotional abuse checklist (available at provides more than 70 questions to measure whether or not a woman is being subjected to emotional abuse by her intimate partner. The questions “flesh out” so to speak the enumeration of Section 3 of RA 9262 on what constitutes psychological violence. The checklist is divided into the following major sections:
A. Are you isolated?
B. Is your attention monopolized by the abusive person?
C. Does your partner claim to be all powerful?
D. Does your partner enforce trivial demands?
E. Are you exhausted, debilitated or dependent?
F. Do you feel humiliated or degraded?
G. Does your partner threaten you?
H. Does your partner occasionally indulge your wishes?
I. Does your partner do things that make you feel crazy?
J. Is your partner emotionally distant or neglectful?
Some of the questions under the major sections cited above are the following:
Question 01. Does your partner ridicule or insult people you like?
Question 03. Does your partner become angry or upset, dampening your enthusiasm, just before, or during a social event you’ve looked forward to?
Question 07. Do you feel uneasy about being with your partner and your friends at the same time?
Question 08. Do you feel nervous or frightened of what your partner will say or do if you are even a few minutes late from work, shopping, the hairdresser, or visiting others?
Question18. Does your partner insist that activities take place in precise ways or at precisely designated times?
Question 69. Does your partner groan, complain or ridicule you, when you cry, worry, or ask for emotional support?
Question 75. Have you given up asking your partner for companionship?
Question 76. Have you stopped asking for empathy or emotional support?
These and other numerous questions from the emotional abuse checklist provided by ALIVE are meant to help women being subjected to emotional abuse. While I do not necessarily endorse everything that ALIVE stands for, this checklist is very helpful and insightful.
Going through the emotional abuse checklist can really crush your spirit. The questions in the checklist describe an uncouth, emotionally distant and verbally abusive man who demeans and ridicules his wife. How radically different is the picture painted by the Old Testament book of Song of Solomon, specifically in chapter 4, where the man by his words and actions cherishes and treasures his wife, as follows:
1. Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.
2. Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.
3. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
4. Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.
5. Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.
6. Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.
7. Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.
8. Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards.
9. Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.
10. How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!
11. Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.
12. A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
13. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,
14. Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:
15. A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.
16. Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.

1 comment:

  1. I find the article very enlightening specially for women who like me is solely supporting my child. I was married in 2000 in civil ceremony, a few months a Catholic church wedding followed.

    After the birth of my daughter in 2001, I separated from my husband in April of 2002. The reason, I had enough of feeling neglected, ridiculed and being made to be financially dependent on him .

    What I could remember in that union is mostly ill-feeling harbored against him. He made me feel unwanted, an extra baggage and a total financial burden.

    He openly shows me how he mistrust me in our finances. In fact he does the grocery, pay the bills and does all the transaction related to money.

    In short I never felt I was a wife.

    My sisters - in-law told me that they came from a dysfunctional family. That affection is not openly showed and my husband never has been used to apologizing.

    Needless to say,I need to adjust.... compromise was not mentioned at all.

    I could have stayed but as months passed by, I am losing my self-esteem and self-worth. I was dangerously losing myself, I felt ugly, useless, stupid and a great embarrassment to him being a decorated military officer.

    During my risky pregnancy, I was told numerous times to find work since I was getting to be a big financial drawback. I lost my first child because of emotional stress and I was about to lose my 2nd child then...

    It took me a lot of courage to decide to separate from him. I burst like a bubble and I went on an angry bout that caught my husband off guard.

    I sent him out of the house and only talked to him for financial support for our child.

    Although, the military intervened in our behalf, he arm-wrestled some of the enlisted personnel to not hand us the allotment. I had to go to the provost marshal for assistance. For 6 months, he deliberately withdrew the support.

    Eventually, he resigned from the military with an agreement that he will support our daughter.
    His military officers vouched for him.

    I guess as you may may guess, it never materialised.

    Because of the verbal agreement, I did his papers for his resignation while he works abroad. Once the transaction was over, it turned out that my daughter and I will not receive anything.


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