ruffa_gutierrez_cycle_of_abuse_split.jpgYesterday saw reports about Yilmaz Bektas’s alleged bid to win back estranged wife Ruffa Gutierrez, to much controversy–Female Network's poll on the topic returned mixed results and comments. According to an article in The Philippine Star, Gutierrez was “titillated” by the texts sent to her by Bektas, in which he promised to get her back and never let her go and offered her a happy and peaceful life in Spain, complete with another baby (the separated couple has two daughters already, six-year-old Lorin and five-year-old Venice).


When asked Gutierrez if their exchange of text messages points to a possibility of their reconciliation, she didn't exactly dismiss it: "'Kung na-realize niya to work things out because of the kids, because of the family, I think only time will tell. Kasi, we do have two kids and I haven't seen him. Malay mo kung hindi ko na siya type when I see him. Ang tagal na. I'll cross the bridge when I get there. Can I see him first?' Ruffa replied."

But it’s been just a scant three years since Gutierrez fled their house in Istanbul, crying abuse—in a June 2007 interview with Startalk’s Butch Francisco, Gutierrez told the public, “he tortured me and he hit me for 15 hours. Sinasaktan niya ako, binubugbog niya ako, pinutol niya lahat ng buhok ko. Sinisipa ako. Kinukulong ako sa cabinet. Siraulo lang siya. (He hurt me, he beat me up, he cut off all my hair. I was being kicked. I was locked in a cabinet. He’s just crazy.)” Watch the video on GMANews.TV to hear Gutierrez’s and Bektas’s statements.

This was contradictory to the press statement actress’s representatives issued in May of the same year, which claimed cultural differences as the reason for the separation and that this was done amicably, although this was countered by Bektas, who issued his own statement blaming the breakup of their marriage on Gutierrez’s materialistic relations and showbiz career. Was Bektas abusive? This is a truth only the two of them are likely to know. But having said that he had been violent during their marriage, why isn’t Gutierrez dismissing his messages out of hand, especially given reports of his impending marriage to a former Miss Universe winner? Could Gutierrez be caught in the cycle of violence that traps so many men and women in abusive relationships?


The notion of a cycle of violence explaining behavior in relationships characterized by abuse was first developed by Lenore Walker in the 1970s, according to this Wikipedia entry. This idea is that once abuse–whether emotional, psychological, physical, or sexual–enters a relationship and becomes characteristic of it, a pattern of tension, acting out, reconciliation, and then calm occurs, and this pattern can easily perpetuate throughout the relationship unless the victim has the courage and awareness to break away from it (it is rarely the abuser who does so). While this theory has been often contested as well as built upon, it is nevertheless still frequently used

To get to know this issue better and recognize it in a relationship, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what occurs at each stage of the cycle.


This stage is characterized by poor communication, passive aggression, and, as its name implies, a buildup of tension. The abuser may exhibit problems with controlling temper, which the victim comes to fear. In response to this stage, the victim may try to do whatever it takes to avoid triggering her partner’s anger. According to the bullet points identified for this stage on, she may feel as if she is “walking on eggshells.” This can result in an overly careful attitude in the victim and dangerous unpredictability in the abuser. This article on states that feelings of anger or rage may be triggered in the abuser by real or even just imagined events.

Acting Out (Abusive Incident)

This stage is characterized by an episode of verbal, emotional, psychological, physical, or even sexual abuse, according to the diagram on Threats may be made or carried out, and the intimidation caused by snapping temper and unpredictability in the abuser during the tension-building stage will be heightened. Wikipedia states it simply: “During this stage, the batterer attempts to dominate his/her partner (victim), with the use of domestic violence.”

Reconciliation or Making Up

Also known as the “honeymoon period,” this is stage is characterized by apologizing (on the abuser’s part), forgiveness (on the victim’s part), and possibly outright denial (that the abuse ever occurred).

Abusers may promise to change their behavior and often shower love and affection on their victims; alternately, they may threaten to harm themselves or use other means to make the victim feel guilty for trying to leave or for refusing to forgive them. Victims, on the other hand, often find themselves capitulating to the pressure from the abuser or because of other factors that allow them to rationalize the abuse (i.e., convincing themselves it didn’t really happen or wasn’t as bad as they remembered it, believing their abusers will keep their promises never to do it again, thinking they have to stay because of beliefs or because of children they might have with their abusers, etc.)


After the making-up stage comes a period of calm in which things seem to be looking up; according to, the abusers may fulfill the promises they made during the reconciliation period, offer gestures or gifts of apology and affection, and so forth. Often, during this period, abuse does not take place. More often than not, though, this stage does not last; a breakdown in communication occurs, and tension begins to build once again.


From the cycle of violence and abuse described above, it would seem that the weakest link in the chain is the reconciliation period since the victim may (and should) try to break away from the cycle after an abusive incident and before it can happen again.

In addition, a concern might be that the more and more times abuser and abused go round this cycle, the more this behavior may escalate—it is in our natures to test the limits of what we can do, and it’s possible a person who exhibits mild forms of abuse early on in a relationship may move on to more serious abuse if his behavior continues to be forgiven or allowed.

So why, when faced with the option of staying with their abusers or leaving them, do many women choose to stay? Or, as Ruffa Gutierrez’s case might reflect, why do women who have escaped abusive relationships seem amenable to returning to them?

From our research, we identified six crucial factors in a woman’s willingness to stay with her abuser: fear, denial, misplaced love or optimism, family, religion or belief systems, and perceived dependence.


Women may be afraid that attempting to stand up for themselves or to leave the situation altogether will simply make matters worse. According to this article about why people stay in abusive relationships on, women may be afraid that their abusers will carry out on their threats to do even greater violence to them, to themselves (threats of suicide are not uncommon during the reconciliation stage), or to any children they might have. They may even fear for their lives. Another fear may be of not being believed.


Women may also go into denial: they may not believe they are being abused or that the abuse is quite as bad as it’s made out to be. They find ways to rationalize their abusers’ violence or may be overconfident in their abilities to keep things from getting out of hand.

ruffa_gutierrez_cycle_of_abuse_wedding.jpgLove or Optimism

According to this article, another reason why women stay is love: they may truly believe they love their abusers and that their abusers love them back. An abused woman may also be optimistic that her abuser may be able to change his behavior and thus is unwilling to abandon a relationship “because of a ‘few problems.’”

Religion or Beliefs

If a woman subscribes to a religion that holds marriage as sacred and either bans or refuses to recognize divorce, this may be an added pressure to stay in an abused relationship. Although the widespread information about the effects of abuse makes this attitude less common today than it was in previous generations. points out some ways that traditional thinking can contribute to a woman’s decision to stay in an abusive relationship:

- There’s no such thing as divorce: A woman may not be willing to contemplate divorce or annulment.

- Better a bad father or partner than none at all: A woman may not view single parenting as an acceptable option.

- It’s a woman’s job to hold her marriage or relationship together: Failure in the relationship may be taken as failure as a woman.

Read the article on domestic violence for more reasons why women end up staying in bad relationships.


Family is another factor that weighs a woman down when she contemplates flight from a violent relationship. If she and her abuser have children, she may feel duty-bound to stay for their sakes and be reluctant to break up the traditional family unit. She may also try to seek help from her family or his—and have her concerns be dismissed or disbelieved.


Both and point out that a woman may be made to feel completely dependent on a man in a relationship. She may feel that she has nowhere else to go or that she cannot afford to live on her own or raise her children as a solo parent. Many abused women don’t have jobs and may not be given access to cash or bank accounts, so this can be a very real issue—and just one more way that their abusers hold power over them.

Victimized women may also be emotionally dependent on their abusers—during the periods of reconciliation and calm, their abusers may be affectionate, nurturing, giving, communicative; an abuser may convince his victim that she will never find love away from him. In short, the periods in which her abuser is a loving, caring partner seem to make it easier for a woman to forgive or rationalize the times when he isn’t.


Victims of domestic violence should never be made to feel that there is nowhere else to go, that no one will believe them when they tell the truth about how they’ve been treated, or that abuse is somehow justified or deserved. If you are in an abusive relationship and recognize it as such, it’s time to gather up your courage and break the cycle—reach out to your friends and family. If you know someone caught in the cycle of violence, encourage him or her to do the same.

The Women’s Crisis Center (WCC) in Manila is working to stop violence against women and children. They offer women who have been victimized support and they have a temporary shelter program, so that they never have to feel there isn’t anyone to turn to, and they also offer services counseling, medical assistance, skills training or alternative or supplementary education, and so forth.

You can visit the Women’s Crisis Center on the 3rd floor of the ER Trauma Extension Building, East Avenue Medical Center, Diliman, Quezon City. You can also visit their website,, call their helplines at 926-7774 or 922-5235, or email

Want to pitch in? Visit the WCC website to find out how.

(All photos courtesy of

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