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R.A.

9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act describes Battered Woman
Syndrome (BWS) as a scientifically defined pattern of psychological and behavioral symptoms found in
women living in battering relationships as a result of cumulative abuse. This definition is somewhat
vague since it is very general in nature, and does not give specific qualifications and conditions in order
for a woman to be classified as battered woman. Another definition is based on jurisprudence. In People
vs. Marivic Genosa, G.R. No. 135981 January 15, 2004, the Supreme Court defined “battered woman” as
a woman “who is repeatedly subjected to any forceful physical or psychological behavior by a man in
order to coerce her to do something he wants her to do without concern for her rights.” More
specifically, the Supreme Court qualifies that the couple must go through the battering cycle at least
twice in order to be classified as a battered woman. Accordingly, “any woman may find herself in an
abusive relationship with a man once. If it occurs for a second time, and that said woman remains in the
situation, she is classified as a battered woman.”

The Supreme Court in the People v. Marivic Genosa held that BWS is “characterized by the so-called
‘cycle of violence,’ which has three phases: (1) the tension-building phase; (2) the acute battering
incident; and (3) the tranquil, loving (or, at least, non-violent) phase.” In the first phase, minor battering
occurs which could be verbal or slight physical abuse or another form of hostile behavior. In the second
phase, brutality, destructiveness and, sometimes, death occurs. In the last phase, the couple experience
profound relief. In the People v. Torres, 128 Misc2d, 129, 488 NYS2d 358 and McMaugh v. State, 612
A.2d 725 cases which were some of the bases of the People v. Genosa case, “battered women exhibit
common personality traits, such as low self-esteem, traditional beliefs about the home, the family and
the female sex role; emotional dependence upon the dominant male; the tendency to accept
responsibility for the batterer’s actions; and false hopes that the relationship will improve.”

In the People v. Genosa case, the woman was sentenced to imprisonment of six (6) years and one (1)
day to 14 years 8 months and 1 day as maximum because [1] the presence of BWS was not proven; and
[2] the SC’s decision was limited with the prevailing provisions of the Revised Penal Code which did not
consider BWS as a justifying circumstance that would enable Genosa to claim valid self-defense—as the
case was decided several months before the passage of R.A. 9262 into law in March 2004.

The VAWC or R.A. No. 9262 is meritorious in introducing the concept of a Battered Woman Syndrome as
a defense on the side of the victim-survivor who has intentionally or unintentionally murdered the
abuser. It protects the victim-survivor by extinguishing her criminal and civil liability. On Sec. 26 of R.A.
9262, “victim-survivors who are found by the courts to be suffering from battered woman syndrome do
not incur any criminal and civil liability notwithstanding the absence of any of the elements for justifying
circumstances of self-defense under the Revised Penal Code.” Hence, under R.A. 9262, even if the
elements of self-defense are not present, a woman suffering from the said syndrome shall not be
criminally and civilly liable. BWS becomes a justifying circumstance that can acquit the accused woman.
In effect, this gives a very broad protection for the woman suffering from BWS. However, expert
psychiatrists/psychologists must attest with proper examination and documentation that the victim is
indeed suffering from Battered Woman Syndrome.

The concept of battered woman only applies to wives or women who are in any form of dating or
intimate relationship with men. Despite the interesting development of the concept of BWS in Philippine
laws, its application to prevailing circumstances has yet to be observed and tested.