Ruffa Gutierrez has recently opened up again about the abuse she experienced from her ex-husband, Turkish businessman Yilmaz Bektas. Since then, she became a domestic violence advocate and also gave her daughters meaningful advice in life.
In 2007, the actress opened up on national TV that she was badly beaten by her ex-husband. She immediately left Istanbul and went back to Manila, and got the help she needed from her family and a psychiatrist. She also revealed she was diagnosed with PTSD.
“I think a lot of women are still afraid to speak out and share their stories because of their husbands. Sometimes it’s even psychological. Sometimes they’re not running after you anymore but we think that we are,” Ruffa said during the Avon Foundation for Women “Voices Against Violence” panel. “Would you believe that, until now, I’m still afraid of my ex-husband? I live in the Philippines, which is my safe haven because he lives in Istanbul. And even if he invited me so many times to go back, I don’t want to go back because I have this notion that he will kill me.”
But if there’s one thing that Ruffa taught her daughters, it’s to not depend on any man and not feel afraid when they want to leave an abusive relationship. “My daughters were only two and three [years old] at the time—they were still very young. But once they hit seven and eight years old, I was able to tell them already my story. And they understood,” she said. “As a mom, I have to set a good example to them. I want them to be strong, independent women, and make them realize that it’s not okay [to be mistreated.] They can live on their own, and they don’t need a man to survive.”
Ruffa added she lets her daughters take endorsement deals as early as now so they can be “financially independent at a young age.” According to Carmelita Nuqui of the Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), having a stable flow of income can be beneficial for abuse victims and survivors so they can be able to start again.
In the Philippines, 17 percent of women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence. Likewise, one in four women in the same age group have experienced other forms of abuse like sexual or emotional violence. The suspects are usually partners, husbands, and family members.
We commend women like Ruffa who were brave enough to speak up about their experiences and are now using their platforms to help others. If you, or someone you know, want to file an abuse complaint, you can go to a Women and Children Protection Desk at a nearby police station. You can also refer to the hotlines below:
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
(02)931-8101 to 07
DSWD –NCR Ugnayan Pag-asa Crisis Intervention Center
(02) 734-8639, 734-8654, or 734-8626 to 27
Philippine National Police (PNP)
(02) 723-0401 to 20
PNP-Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC)
NBI-Violence Against Women and Children Desk (VAWCD)
(02) 523-8231 to 38 or 525-6028