Filipino psychologists on Laude’s death and gender-based violence

Psychology professionals from all over the country highlight the grave consequences of violence on the mental health and well-being of women

Psychological Association of the Philippines
Published 6:17 PM, Dec 01, 2014
Updated 6:21 PM, Dec 01, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – Feelings of worthlessness, beliefs of being damaged, debilitating anxiety, disturbed sleep, symptoms of depression, and even attempts at suicide — these are some of the possible negative effects of gender-based violence for Filipina women, according to the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP).

In a recent resolution on gender-based violence, the PAP cited national data indicating 1 out of 5 Filipino women experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Sixty-four percent of those who experience sexual abuse suffer physical injuries — burns, bruises, broken bones, broken teeth — and 57% of violence against women (VAW) survivors report mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and isolation.

Despite the effects of violence, less than one out of 10 women seeks help from a professional.

“Not many people are aware that they are guilty of even minor degree of VAW. Why? Because it’s part of our culture that there is gender inequality, so many stereotypes about women,” said Dr Angela Regala, PAP president.

“We haven’t been very vocal about it. So those that are not well-informed think that VAW is the normal practice,” Regala said.

Here is the full text of the PAP’s resolution on gender-based violence and VAW:

“Recent events have brought public attention to the continuing problem of gender-based dehumanization and violence against women in Philippine society.

These include the documented sale of a t-shirt framing rape as a “snuggle with a struggle” in a large department store chain, the staging of a fashion show by the major retail brand featuring a male actor pulling a female model on an animal leash, and most recently, the violent death of a transgender woman from Olongapo City.

In this resolution, we articulate the position of our national professional organization of Filipino psychologists, psychometricians, psychological researchers, and allied mental health professionals on the pressing problem of gender-based violence and its associated harms to mental health and well-being, especially for women.”

Forms of violence

Gender-based violence, particularly violence directed against women and girls, continues to be a widespread human rights violation and a public health concern globally and in Philippine society.

VAW takes on many forms, including physical abuse, sexual assault, and psychological violence.

Psychological violence, otherwise known as emotional abuse, is also common and includes acts like humiliating a woman, shouting at a woman for talking with men other than her spouse, insisting to know where she is at all times, preventing her from spending time with family and friends, threats to take away or destroy cherished material objects, and other controlling behaviors.

These forms of VAW interact and may occur singly or in combination. And while violence and other forms of gender-based aggression are also experienced by men, violence targeting women — including young women, girls, older women, women who are heterosexual, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender — is an especially critical issue because it is violence rooted in a broader social context of gender inequality and often serves to maintain this unequal status quo.

The Philippine context of gender inequality is reflected in daily life and can be reinforced by institutions such as families, the media, and the business sector.

This everyday sexism includes imagery that trivializes rape and desensitizes women, men, and young people to the harms of sexual violence by framing it as affection, rather than as sexualized control and aggression against women.

Depictions that reduce women and girls to sexual objects for the use of others, instead of as agentic persons with the capacity for independent thought, feelings, and decision-making, are another example of gender-based dehumanization and violence.

Not all survivors of VAW experience negative effects to the same extent, but the evidence for harm brought about by gender-based violence is clear. Sixty-four of Filipina women and girls who ever experienced sexual violence suffered some form of physical injury; 11% had eye injuries, sprains, dislocations or burns; 36% had cuts, bruises or aches; 8% lost their job or source of income; and 5% suffered deep wounds, broken bones, broken teeth or another serious injury.

Mental health

The harm to mental health is no less serious: feelings of worthlessness and low self- esteem, beliefs of being damaged, debilitating anxiety, symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, and in extreme cases, psychotic reactions.

National data indicate that 57% of VAW survivors report depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, confusion, or feelings of isolation, and 16% attempted suicide.

Equally worrying is 38% of women who experience VAW never seek help and never tell anyone.

The PAP stands with international human rights bodies, civil society organizations, women’s rights groups, and the rest of the mental health professional community in recognizing the problem of gender-based violence, especially violence against women.

The PAP Code of Ethics calls upon all Filipino psychologists to uphold human dignity of women and men and to act in accordance to professional responsibilities to society, rights, and well-being.

In order to eliminate gender-based violence, especially violence against women, the PAP resolves to support efforts to:

  •     Oppose all public and private forms of gender-based violence, especially physical, sexual, and psychological violence directed toward women and girls;
  •     Support legislation at the local and national levels that protect the rights and promote the welfare of women and girls, especially against gender-based violence;
  •     Eliminate all forms of sexism and gender inequality, including content and practices that may legitimize or trivialize gender-based violence, in teaching, research, psychological interventions, assessment and other psychological programs;
  •     Encourage psychological research that addresses the experiences and concerns of Filipina women and girls in the context of safety, gender-based violence, and sexual dehumanization
  •     Disseminate and apply accurate and evidence-based information about gender-based violence and its harms to mental health and well-being
  •     Design and provide psychological services that foster mental health and wellbeing of women and girls, address the harms of gender-based violence, and contribute to a culture of gender equality.

“It’s our responsibility to make people realize that VAW is not okay. Let’s also educate the youth about this,” said Regala.

“It’s not that there has been no improvement. But we need to more vigilant. So that the Philippines will be totally non-discriminatory and pro-gender,” Regala added. –