From victim to fighter: 'We all have to take a stand,' says Pisay student

MANILA, Philippines – For one Philippine Science High School (PSHS) student, it got to a point where she lost trust in her close friends, walked her school halls in fear, and even inflicted self-harm after learning that her nude photos had been posted online without her consent.

She later found the courage to stand up for herself and, along with other victims, filed complaints against their tormentors – 6 fellow PSHS students who posted the lewd photos.

While the investigating school committees recommended that the 6 male students not be allowed to graduate, the PSHS board of trustees overturned the decision.  Following the public outrage sparked by the board's decision, the latter had said that it would reconsider the ruling.  

Rappler obtained the permission of one of the victims to share her testimony about her experience. Here is her story, in her own words:

I trusted someone.

Every day, I would go talk to that someone and we would talk about the most random things: how the stars lit up, how great an artist you like is, how fun it is to play video games. But whatever fairy tale I felt within a person that I thought was a dear friend to me was broken. No, not broken – shattered. Yes, we exchanged nude photos but I never thought he would exchange mine for someone else’s.

The panic ensued shortly after and I heard some whispers that many people have already seen me naked. They have compared me to other people that they were inexcusably treating as other objects at their disposal. I couldn’t trust anybody. I didn’t tell anyone because I feared being blamed more than I already was because I was blaming myself constantly.

I couldn’t trust anyone that I knew, especially people who I considered close friends. It became very hard for me to open up to people, which is why I filed a case many years later. It got to the point that I couldn’t even bear to walk the corridors in fear that people would glance at my genitalia and begin to give me dirty stares.

It got me so upset that in the middle of the night, as I was scrolling through my phone, I started crying, which elevated to screaming, which escalated to running to the kitchen drawer and taking out a big knife. I told myself, physical pain is better than whatever I’m feeling inside, so this is fine. It got to the point where my parents found the scar and grew exceedingly worried that I decided to reach out.

But it still took me months to muster up the courage because I know that they’re powerful and I wasn’t strong enough. Thoughts of ‘what if’ still plague my mind, but now I’m writing this statement to tell you that what they did was unfair and inexcusable.

When I filed the case, my eyes were glimmering from tears because I was so scared but also very hopeful.

We all have to take a stand and make our friends accountable. I never thought the adults would give us a taste of the real world. But here they are, not giving us the reason as a bare minimum and allowing those who are privileged to escape from their sin.

I was a victim but now I’m a fighter and I want to stand up for what is right.

I hope you do too.

 

PSHS students have sought the reversal of the board's decision before they graduate on Wednesday, May 29. 

In a statement, the students urged the public not to blame the victims, saying "it takes a significant amount of courage for victims to come out and be open about their experiences."

"The act of recounting their stories often puts them in the painful situation of having to relive the memory of the misdeed.... Victim-blaming, at the end of the day, is only detrimental to the parties involved," they said. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

image