Ruffa Gutierrez has been a constant voice against violence and abuse as someone who's had to face a similar trauma herself. Millions of young girls and women in the Philippines go through domestic abuse on the daily, with no means or strength to seek help from others. In fact, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, 41% of abused women have never sought help or even told anyone about the abuses that they were being made to go through.
With the rampant prevalence of such deplorable acts against women and children, Avon partnered with Vital Voices, a global NGO empowering women, by setting up Voices Against Violence, "an international training program this week in Manila, to help tackle the pertinent issue against gender-based violence."
An ambassador to Avon and the cause, Ruffa openly spoke of her own experience with gender violence, admitting that speaking out is easier said than done.
"I was living in Istanbul. I had a very powerful husband. I think it was much easier for me to come out and share my story because I was an actress. Actually, I didn't know where to go 12 years ago so I shared my story in the media. But not a lot of women have that same privilege of sharing that so I believe that a lot of women are still afraid to speak out and share their stories because they're afraid. Sometimes it's even psychological," she reveals. "In the beginning, you'll think that he's going to change. But those reasons that you gave and those excuses are actually the same reasons why you left him to begin with."
She also acknowledges as well that the trauma doesn't end right after you report your abuse. "It's a process. I had many scars in my body and it came to a point where I would cover it with makeup. When he would cut my hair, I would put hair extensions. It became a normal situation but it also messes with your mind, so I was able to see a psychiatrist at that time and I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. So it's very difficult. You learn from those lessons, but when we discuss it, there's still a pain in my heart. So I guess whatever those experiences brought you, you just learn and you move on."
In line with the raw difficulty rooted on such a scarring experience, Ruffa then encourages other women, including her own daughters, to be brave and to speak out against gender-based violence in the country, especially considering that lot of abused women and children cannot speak for themselves. "As a mom, I want to be a good example to [my daughters]. I want them to be strong, independent women and make them realize that it's not okay. That they can be indenpendent on their own and they don't need a man to surivive because if I was able to do it, I'm sure they can as well."
Apart from lending your voice, you can also help end gender-based violence the fashionable way: To add to its Free as a Butterfly Collection, Avon recently released a special Butterfly watch. With every purchase, P100 will be donated to the brand's partner NGOs that seek to empower and help women and girls surviving from abuse.
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