Thursday, May 29, 2008

Preventing the sexual abuse of children

Republic Act 7610 is our country’s law on the prevention of child abuse and exploitation. Section 3 (b) of the law enumerates the various forms of child abuse, among others, as psychological and physical abuse, neglect, cruelty, sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment. In this post, I will focus on the issue of child sexual abuse and how parents, schools and communities can deal proactively with this problem.
As a schoolteacher, I have known several students who were sexually abused. One student (valedictorian of his high school class) was sexually abused when he was about seven years old by a relative. Another student was repeatedly sexually abused by his two older brothers

As a lawyer, I have been consulted by pastors and members on issues dealing with sexual abuse not only in their communities but also in their churches. One pastor who ministers in a depressed area in Metro Manila told me of numerous cases of girls being abused by their own fathers.

There are numerous resources available on the Internet on the issue of child sexual abuse. What I will do in this post is to give highlights of these resources and provide the links so that you can read the articles in their entirety.

Facts and statistics on child abuse in the Philippines

1. is a website that features organizations in the Philippines, both state-run and non-governmental, that work on the issue of child protection. It is a project supported by the Arci Cultura E Sviluppo, Save the Children (UK) Philippines, and UNICEF Manila with the participation of eight other organizations. Among its statistics on child abuse are:

There are 1.5 million streetchildren. DSWD estimates that this number increases annually by 6,365.

Of the 1.5 million streetchildren, 60,000 are prostituted (ECPAT 1996). The DSWD claims that the annual average increase of prostituted children is 3,266.

The Philippines is the fourth country with the most number of prostituted children (Intersect, December 1995).

Research studies conducted in schools show that for every 3 Filipino children, one child experiences abuse (Manila Bulletin, 11 February 1996). During the first semester of 1999 alone, there were 2,393 children who fell prey to rape, attempted rape, incest, acts of lasciviousness and prostitution (DSWD 1st semester, CY 1999).
2. Most Negros rape victims are children, from Philippine Daily Inquirer Visayas Bureau. by Romey G. Amarado

Police recorded a total of 145 rape cases in Negros Oriental between January and June this year. 122 of them were children according to the Women and Children's Concerns Desk (WCCD) of the PNP. Of the 51 cases that were directly recorded by the WCCD, 42 of them were children, half of them under the age of 12 and the rest, aged 15 to 17. The majority of the victims were girls and the youngest was a four-year-old boy raped by his uncle in Dumaguete City. Two cases were incest; eleven and sixteen year-old girls were the victims.

Last year 94 cases were reported, 70 of these were children. Twenty-four of the victims were 12 years old and younger. The youngest victim in 2000 was a two-year-old girl. Researches hold that most cases of rape are unreported and for every one that is reported at least ten more can be presumed. The WCCD is conducting children's rights awareness seminars which in turn, seems to be resulting in more reports of child abuse.
Myths and facts about sexual abuse

One great secular resource on child sexual abuse is the blog Telling It Like It Is, with articles written by Lin Burress. Very candidly, Lin reveals that she was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. Despite learning all she could about the issue and teaching her children about the warning signs, Lin says that “one of her sons was sexually abused at a young age by a highly respected church minister and close family friend, inside the church she attended at that time.”

In Lin's article entitled “Child Molestation Prevention Signs and Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse”, she tackles the issues of (a) Signs of Sexual Abuse; (b) Why Don’t Children Tell? and (c) What Can Parents Do To Keep Children Safe?" Lin warns that:

Most sexual abuse is committed by people the child already knows such as friends, relatives, caregivers, trusted adults as well as complete strangers. Sexual abuse takes many forms and can involve forcing, coercing, bribing or threatening a child into sexual activity. The abuse often begins gradually and increases over time unless discovered.
Among other valuable articles in Lin’s blog are the following:

Danger signals about sexual predators; local resources available

The Center for the Prevention & Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA) is a non-profit, non-government, child-focused institution working towards a safe world for children that is free from sexual abuse exploitation. This NGO, based in UP Village, Quezon City, has numerous materials on the prevention of child sexual abuse, including a ten-session Sunday School material. Some materials are free while others are for sale.

In its flyers and posters, CPTCSA enumerates some of the early warning signals and telltale signs of sexual offenders which children - and their parents - should be aware of. These are:
1. Offender says you are special, different or the only one who really understands him

2. Treats you differently from other kids; gives you special privileges; treats you like an adult while he acts like a kid

3. Says he is teaching you sex education by showing you pornographic pictures or movies; he shows his body or touches yours

4. Puts lotion or ointment on you when your mother or others are not around (even when you don’t need the ointment)

5. Offenders hang around school, yard or park where children play; tells you “not to tell” or asks to “keep a secret”

6. Does not let you have friends or does not let you do things that other kids your age do

7. Comes into your bedroom for no reason

8. Asks you to do things that involve physical contact or touching of private parts

9. Offender wants to spend time alone with you; makes excuses for you to go places with him

10. Asks questions or makes accusations about sex between you and your boyfriends

11. “Accidentally” comes into the bathroom when you are taking a bath; not respecting your privacy

12. May fool your parents into allowing you to be “friends” through bribes and other tricks
The CPTCSA books and flyers also list “Wants to take your pictures” as an early warning signal and telltale sign of sexual offenders, but since photography is the number one hobby in the world, this sign should be taken not in isolation but in relation with the other warning signs.

Valuable resources on the issue of child sexual abuse and prevention

If you want to avail of print materials and videos on the issue of child sexual abuse and how you can proactively deal with this problem, please surf to the Reformed Churches in America website.