MANILA, Philippines – Rape exists because of rapists.
This sentiment was echoed in thousands of tweets as women took to Twitter on Sunday, June 14, to shut down the misconception that their outfits are to blame for sexual assault.
Using the hashtag #HijaAko, women came forward with their own stories of harassment, pointing out how these incidents occurred even if they were not wearing revealing clothing.
The hashtag went viral after Frankie Pangilinan, the outspoken daughter of “Megastar” Sharon Cuneta and Senator Francis Pangilinan, used it to reclaim the term “hija” to refer to “girls who fight for their rights as human beings.”
Pangilinan earlier tweeted the need to teach people not to rape in reaction to an online post of the Lucban Municipal Police Station that told women to avoid wearing revealing clothes so they would not be targeted for sex crimes.
Seemingly talking down to Pangilinan by calling her “hija,” broadcaster Ben Tulfo said sex offenders would pounce on any opportunity to commit unwanted sexual advances, and urged “sexy ladies” to be careful with the way they dress because they might be “inviting the beast.”
Hija @kakiep83 , a rapist or a juvenile sex offender's desire to commit a crime will always be there. All they need is an opportunity, when to commit the crime. Sexy ladies, careful with the way you dress up! You are inviting the beast.
Hija @kakiep83 , a rapist or a juvenile sex offender's desire to commit a crime will always be there. All they need is an opportunity, when to commit the crime. Sexy ladies, careful with the way you dress up! You are inviting the beast.— Ben Tulfo (@bitagbentulfo) June 13, 2020
Tulfo reiterated his point in a separate Facebook post on Saturday night, June 13.
“Bago natin sila baguhin, baguhin muna natin ang sarili’t pag-iisip natin. Gets mo, hija?” he said. (Before we change them for the better, we should first change our way of thinking. Do you get it, child?)
Pangilinan later countered Tulfo, saying his way of thinking has only continued normalizing rape culture and the objectification of women’s bodies.
“Rape culture is real and a product of this precise line of thinking, where the behavior is normalized, particularly by men. The way anyone dresses should not be deemed as ‘opportunity’ to sexually assault them ever. Calling me hija will not belittle my point,” Pangilinan said in a tweet.
Women quickly backed Pangilinan’s points by using the hashtag to showcase the very real incidents of harassment that occur because of men’s behavior, not because of their outfits.
We're wearing long-sleeved uniform with sando and knee-length skirt with stockings and cycling shorts yet some of us experienced catcalling. So who needs some lecture, men who can't zip their zipper and mouth or women and the way we dress? #HijaAko #StopRapingWomen #SayNoToRape— ren ⚕ (@renarnmd) June 14, 2020
Many added that clothing should never be used to excuse sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, pointing out how even young children and babies have become targets of predators. (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment)
“Excuse me, Ben Tulfo, the way ‘sexy ladies’ dress up is not an invitation to the ‘beast.’ As long as men like you who think this way exists, we will never be able to abolish the culture of victim blaming. Rape exists because of rapists,” Twitter user @Joannaaaabanana said.
Excuse me Ben Tulfo, the way 'sexy ladies' dress up is NOT an invitation to the 'beast'.— M A J (@Joannaaaabanana) June 14, 2020
As long as men like you who thinks this way exists, we will never be able to abolish the culture of VICTIM BLAMING.
RAPE EXISTS BECAUSE OF RAPISTS. Period.#HijaAko
Self-control and respect. No one should ever think that clothing gives them the right to do something inappropriate.#HijaAko— Ton$ (@Sexytowns) June 14, 2020
By Sunday afternoon, the hashtag quickly rose to Twitter Philippines’ top trends, with at least 4,121 tweets.
One Twitter user pointed out that conversations about the existence of rape culture and victim blaming should be taken offline as well to help dismantle people’s misconceptions that it’s merely up to women to protect themselves from sex crimes.
The worrying thing is, Tulfo has greater access to the masses. His radio program is blaring in every taxi, jeep, tindahan ni aling nena (pero hindi ni aling maria ).— Hija Dale Rivera (@daleygaga) June 14, 2020
So along w/ making a noise online, we also have to have these (difficult) conversations irl #HijaAko
Another even provided a list of resources that people can study to better understand that sexual assault happens because of the offender’s actions and decisions.
Here’s what others have to say about the matter: