Don't blame victims – Commission on Human Rights
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) condemns the acts of sexual violence and victim-blaming committed against a woman whose photo has gone viral on Facebook in late May 2015.
The photo shows a young woman surrounded by men in what appears to be a party. Some netizens commented that the incident took place in Bacolod City; others, however, pointed out that the photo was old.
Netizens shared that Pilipinas Underground, an independent council for local parties, apologized for the photo in February. It clarified that the party took place in Marikina City during Valentines Day, and was not registered under their organization.
The photo has since resurfaced online.
“While the Commission, through its regional office is still in the process of verifying and investigating the context of the video and photo, the Commission condemns the acts of sexual violence that have been captured and the manner by which the same has been tolerated and acquiesced by those present,” the CHR said in a press statement on Tuesday, June 2.
Despite the many Philippine laws protecting women, statistics show that cases of sexual violence have been increasing over the years.
Violence against women
|Acts of lasciviousness||580||1,035|
Such statistics could also mean that more and more women are breaking their silence.
In the Philippines, 4.4% of women ages 15 to 19 reported experiencing sexual violence, the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) revealed.
Perpetrators are not always strangers, they could be relatives, current partners or boyfriends, friends, and acquaintances, the survey showed.
Sexual violence is "any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic or otherwise directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work." – World Health Organization (WHO)
It is still considered sexual violence even if there was no force involved, as long as the woman did not give her consent, such as in cases of marital rape.
No means no.
Moves made while the woman is unable to give consent – while she is intoxicated, drugged, asleep, or mentally incapacitated – counts as sexual violence, WHO stressed.
It could happen anywhere, in both public and private spaces. It could be committed by people you have known for a long time or have just met.
Sexual violence during or in the aftermath of parties are quite common among students. However, whether or not alcohol and drugs were involved, sexual violence is never justified. (READ: Myths about sexual abuse: Who's to blame?)
“Such acts of violence can never be justified by a woman’s alleged drunkenness, her behavior, the places she frequents, and her manner of dress,” the CHR stressed. “Violence is violence, sexual abuse is sexual abuse. Rape is rape.”
Only 3 in every 10 Filipino women who have been sexually abused sought help, the NDHS reported. It also showed that majority of sexually abused women sought help from family and friends, and that less women approached the police or lawyers directly.
WHO observed the following reasons among women who do not report to the authorities:
- Inadequate support systems
- Fear or risk of retaliation, blame, and disbelief
- Fear or risk of mistreatment and social stigma
In the Philippines, some women also remain silent due to the "cultural and social stigmatization" associated with rape, said the Philippine Commission on Women.
Even before the age of social media, victims have been the target of gossip, doubts, and even hatred, as observed in the 2005 Subic rape case.
While the Internet could be used to amplify the advocacy against gender-based violence, it could also be used as an avenue for spreading stereotypes and victim blaming, as seen in the 2014 Jennifer Laude slay.
In the photo mentioned by CHR, the comments ranged from netizens suggesting that the girl "deserved it" because she likes to party and drink, to insults regarding the girl's "provocative" clothing, and netizens joking that only "pretty girls" get raped.
"Posts, comments and arguments that blame the woman for the sexual violence she has experienced reveal a misogynist thinking that opts to blame the victim for the violence she has been subjected to," the CHR said.
"Victim-blaming not only trivializes and normalizes violence against women, it encourages rape culture and adversely affects women’s access to justice," it continued.
The CHR called on the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Cybercrime Unit of the Philippine National Police to "immediately investigate" the incident.
The Commission also asked the agencies to provide the woman with support services, and to "immediately take down the videos and photos from social media sites to prevent further victimization." – Rappler.com
Got stories to tell? Share your ideas and stories with email@example.com. Speak up on #GenderIssues!