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GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Social workers in Koronadal City, the capital of South Cotabato, sounded the alarm over a significant rise in documented rape cases in the city, with many involving children.
Of particular concern to social workers is the revelation that most of the offenders and victims are underage.
During the first quarter of this year, the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) in Koronadal reported 10 documented cases of rape, more than double the four incidents recorded by social workers throughout 2022.
Jennifer Magbanua, head of Koronadal’s CSWDO, said that out of the 10 cases documented in the first months of 2023, seven were allegedly committed by minors under the age of 15.
Magbanua said the remaining three cases also involved young suspects aged 15 and older.
The Koronadal CSWDO also noted that some of the sexual assaults were gang rapes carried out by groups of young males.
Magbanua said seven of the rape suspects, being minors, were sent to a community-based rehabilitation facility managed by the Barangay Councils for the Protection of Children (BCPC) in the city.
They were undergoing community service and participating in a spiritual development program, while their parents were attending responsible parenthood sessions.
Eventually, the minors will be transferred to Bahay Pag-asa, where they will receive more comprehensive psychosocial and faith-based interventions lasting from six months to one year.
Officials said the CSWDO was also assisting the victims and their families in pursuing legal action against the alleged young sexual offenders.
Magbanua, who has been directly involved in supporting the young rape victims and dealing with the suspected offenders, said it was clear that exposure to pornography on social media, coupled with a lack of parental guidance, were contributing factors to the increase in rape cases in Koronadal.
She cautioned adults against allowing their children to attend parties and gatherings where minors have easy access to intoxicating drinks, as such situations can lead to gang rapes.
Magbanua, however, said the 10 documented rape cases in Koronadal since January may only be the tip of the iceberg, and there could be more unreported cases. She pointed out that some victims of sexual assault choose to remain silent due to the fear of being stigmatized.
Magbanua recalled an incident where a girl confided in her mother about being raped but was not taken seriously because of her young age. It was only when the girl turned 18 that her mother began to listen and acknowledge her traumatic experience.
She stressed the importance for parents to spend quality time talking and listening to their children, especially in broken family situations when adults decide to introduce new partners who eventually become guardians of the minors. – Rappler.com