“There’s Light Out There For Everyone”—Ruffa Gutierrez, Avon, and Vital Voices On Helping End Gender-Based Violence
The statistics are daunting, sickening, numbing. We hear these numbers so much so often—in 2017, 1 out of 4 married women are abused; 17 percent of women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence; 41 percent of that number have never sought help—that it stops feeling like anything. Sadder statements accompany the numbers: these abuses, whether physical, sexual, or emotional, are struck upon by the victim’s current husbands or partners—or in the case of children, by family members. We glaze over these facts and figures, forgetting that there are actual names and faces to the numbers.
On June 24, one such name and face—and a famous one at that—shared her story of domestic abuse at Voices Against Violence, a special forum convened by Avon Philippines, the Avon Foundation for Women, and Vital Voices to fulfill the Avon Promise to Help End Violence Against Women and Girls and put an end to gender-based violence. She is Ruffa Gutierrez of the Gutierrez showbiz dynasty, and to a room full of Avon Ladies—or beauty entrepreneurs, as they are called—she bared her soul and invited other victims of abuse to do the same.
Other esteemed panelists join her: Carmelita Nuqui of the Development Action for Women Network (DAWN); Agnieszka Isa of Avon Philippines; Gen. William S. Macavinta of the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Center; and Maria Kristine Josefina Balmes of the Philippine Commission on Women. It was a day of celebrating female strength and resilience, while shining a light on the harsh truth of gender-based violence—an epidemic that still impacts women and girls in the Philippines and across the globe.
“It was much easier for me to come out and share my story because I’m an actress,” Ruffa says. “I didn’t call the police right away; I didn’t know where to go twelve years ago, so I shared my story in the media. But not a lot of women have that same privilege.” Many victims of gender-based violence are afraid to leave their abusers because they have nowhere to go, nowhere to run to, whether it’s because of financial instability or the shame and stigma attached to being labeled a “battered woman.”
There’s definitely some progress, and if you squint, a glimmer of hope. The monumental #MeToo movement has shaken not only Hollywood but the rest of the world, too: more and more each day, women are coming forth with their stories of abuse and becoming louder and louder: on the internet, on the streets. Talks such as this one proves that raising awareness matters, but action even more so—Isa says that campaigning and driving awareness needs to result in funds that will ultimately help abused women in a concrete way.
“[It’s hard to come forward], but at the end of the day, it’s better to speak out and be free and not live in fear anymore than continue your life in a prison cell,” Ruffa says.
“There’s light out there for everyone.”
If you or anyone you know are experiencing gender-based violence, please contact the following hotlines: the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) at 931-8101 to 07, the DSWD–NCR Ugnayan Pag-asa Crisis Intervention Center at (02) 734-8639 / 734-8654 / 734-8626 to 27, the Philippine National Police (PNP) at 723-0401 to 20, the PNP-Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC) at 410-3213, or the NBI-Violence Against Women and Children Desk (VAWCD) at 523-8231 to 38 / 525-6028.
Photo courtesy of @iloveruffag