Keep Children and PWDs SafeDecember 26, 2009
In a world where material greed, wars and strife become dominant, and where spirituality is relegated to the background; where respect for life and human rights seem dissipating, becoming rarer or a thing of the past, children are most vulnerable. Who in this world is safe now when even in broad daylight, innocent people get raped, robbed, and/or massacred and mutilated; where cyberspace is freely explored by anyone from the most sacred of subjects to the most heinous ones; where the military [with some exceptions of course] and those who should police us to safety are themselves involved in some crimes being perpetrated to the citizens they pledged to protect. For reasons at time beyond comprehension, and seems Biblical, everything seems to come to an excess, crashing and crushing down age-old values and respect for self and others.
ABUSE as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary are as follows: 1) to use wrongly or improperly; 2) to maltreat; 3) to attack with insult, or revile. I personally define abuse as “doing something more than it should be,” “going beyond a defined boundary,” “over indulgence.” In whichever way the word is defined, there is something negative or wrong in its connotation.
An outcome of the present state of the society is the birth of Keep Them Safe Now, a movement initiated by Atty. Rosario Olivas-Gallo which was born out of a commitment to keep children, and persons with disabilities (PWDs) from different forms of abuses—CSA (child sexual abuse) especially. Last November 28, I attended Module 1 of Keep Them Safe Seminar Series on How to Prevent CSA. It was held at Balay ng Alumni, UP, Diliman and facilitated by Atty. Chato herself. Two Deaf friends—Alma from Filipino Women’s Health and Crisis Center and Rommel Agravante, my FSL teacher at DLS-CSB SDEAS now a scholar at the UP College of Fine Arts were among the attendees, largely composed of members from differend NGO groups here in Manila. I attended it being a part of Support and Empower Abused Deaf Children (SEADC) headed by Liw Caldito. SEADC was the beneficiary of the event. As a new member of the group, I thought that I should attend the seminar to familiarize myself with something I know little about. I first met and was introduced to Liw during the screening of my film Silent Odyssey last September 2008.
Liw was familiar to me because my lens caught her during the Celebrations into Force of UNCRPD in May ’08. Reviewing my copy before any screening made me familiar with most of the people in my film. My getting involved with Deaf Pinoy Kaleidoscope, an association of 7 active Deaf organizations made me personally encounter those I virtually know through the footages that I shot at that time.
Anyway, my apathetic and lethargic mind to the happenings around has actually awakened me and my interest in the real situations that affect my subjects moving me to continously work for their welfare in whichever way I could as an advocate for their cause. That is where making my films led me to. That is how I was transformed. Learning of their woes against the society and the government made me feel for them. Since the power of film I believe is very strong to transmit to the concerned those woes, I myself got empowered and have built the conviction to carry on with what I have started. I have a lineup of films to do actually that focus on the special people.
What sort of astounded me to learn from the seminar was that CSA does not just mean rape, or physical assault and molestations of the victims. Just throwing malicious or lascivious looks at the victim are already forms of CSA. Other myths about CSA were taken up one by one: Not all victims are girls; that victims do not know the perpetrators [actually 75-80% know them]; abusers are usually poorly educated or economically poor; that children and disabled are not frequent victims of CSA; all CSA abusers are male; that children lie, make up or imagine sexual abuse; that there is no need to fear if you live in a nice, supposedly safe neighborhood; that children are already safe if they are told to say NO when one touches their private parts; that if the boy was aroused or the girl did not complain, there is no CSA,; that boys are less traumatized than girls; that abused children will show physical evidence; that repeated interview can implant false accusations in children’ s minds, etc.
Getting “educated” about CSA would help lead to action I believe, and bringing the seminar to places where children are liable to be victims and their families because of innocence would help a lot. Tying it up with projects where community based rehabilitation [CBR] groups are active should be considered as they go to provincial nooks untouched or unseen by the national government. I believe that the local or barangay unit of the government could do its share with the cooperation of Department of Social Welfare so that awareness of CSA could be propagated, really disseminated. Pamphlets maybe distributed in the absence of a seminar or while a seminar is still being planned. Awareness would help make everybody observant, more cautious of people around us. Lay people will know and be more open to the subject, and if taken up matter-of-factly and explained by a lawyer herself, the legal viewpoint would undeniably be very useful. The seminar is most timely, especially for PWDs, who are common victims because of their physical disability, especially now that the UNCRPD is being enforced and that the Philippines is a signatory to it.
Learning new knowledge, truth and information about the subject in focus is the first step to involvement. Getting committed to its cause is another matter of course but if that knowledge would help move a person into changing his false beliefs, it is already a positive step towards empowerment–of self first and foremost. The rest follows…