“Rape is among the worse (if not the worst) form of violence against women. It should not be trivialized nor should it be a subject of jokes. Rape is a subject that should be treated with utmost sensitivity. The trauma that victims and their families undergo is immeasurable.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The controversy caused by the gang rape joke of comedian Vice Ganda has died down. But the point that rape is something that should not be joked about could never be overstated. The impact of rape on women and children victims is life-changing, for the worse.
Take the case of Mutya who was raped by soldiers from the 16th Infantry Battalion. When Mutya arrived home after her horrible experience, she was staring blankly and did not eat her supper.
The next day, her grandmother brought her to an albularyo (herb doctor) because Mutya has been acting strange. At the herb doctor, Mutya revealed that a soldier – who was married and have children was courting her and wanted to have sexual intercourse with her. When they got home from the herb doctor, Mutya got out of control and was shouting “Alexander Barsaga you’re under arrest, child abuse, and tomorrow you will be beheaded!” then started to sing and could not sleep.
Mutya was confined at the National Center for Mental Health for several months because of severe trauma. Medical tests and the doctor’s physical examination confirmed that Mutya was sexually abused.
Every year, the Gabriela national office receives reports of different cases of violence against women, including rape, a vicious crime against women and children.
Obeth Montes, psychologist and director of Women’s Health and Services Committee and also deputy secretary general for external affairs of Gabriela said “Rape is committed by using force, coercion and intimidation. It is a grave violation of their being,” Montes said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
It’s a horrendous experience. That is why, Montes said, many rape victims suffer deep psychological and emotional scars, with some developing mental illness. Some victims resort to suicide.
“To make a joke out of rape is unacceptable. It’s a serious crime. To make fun of it is like accepting this horrendous form of violence against women.”
Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela, said rape is a serious matter that should never be trivialized nor made into a subject of jokes in everyday conversations and even in shows. Regardless of who the rape joke is directed against or which context it was delivered, it still is insensitive, cruel and unacceptable.
“Victims of rape and other forms of violence against women experience immense pain and trauma. Their experience and the crime committed against them should never be the subject of jokes. That personalities make rape a laughing matter and the public even laughs at such jokes reflects a deeper problem in our society, a society where violence against women and children occur and flourish despite the utter inhumanity of it.”
Rape, worse form of VAWC
“Rape is among the worse (if not the worst) form of violence against women. It should not be trivialized nor should it be a subject of jokes. Rape is a subject that should be treated with utmost sensitivity. The trauma that victims and their families undergo is immeasurable,” the Gabriela Women’s Party said in a statement.
“The anguish of rape victims lasts for a lifetime. Not only do victims suffer from physical and sexual abuse, they also suffer from the stigma. Rape victims are blamed for being raped, especially victims of date rape. That is why some victims would rather not report what they suffered. The burden of proof that rape happened is on the rape victim,” Montes said adding that many cases such as date rape do not prosper into a case.
She said oftentimes the victims know the perpetrator. It could be someone from the neighborhood, a relative or family member, a friend, or a person the victim met in a party or a person of authority just like what happened to Mutya. “If the perpetrator is a person of authority – those who supposedly enforce the law – then how can victims complain?”
There is also marital rape and incest rape. There are cases where a daughter is made a sex slave of her own father, or brother or uncles, or a wife who has an abusive husband. These victims are not raped only once but many times over.
Montes roots the problem of rape on how, in a patriarchal society like the Philippines, women are treated as a commodity or a private property of men who can be used and abused.
That is why rape victims, especially those who went through the most dreadful experiences could not confide easily. Like one case that Montes handled sometime between 2003 or 2004. A 16 year old girl was raped by a pastor but never told her parents about it. But when it happened again the next year, she was 17, she instantly told her parents.
“They filed a case against the pastor. When the fiscal was about to release a resolution on the case favoring the victim, she was abducted and went missing for four months,” Montes narrated. Montes said it was the pastor who held her in captivity and she became a sex slave of the pastor and his colleagues. The nightmare ended when she managed to run away from her captors, she was 18 then.
“When I saw her she was in severe trauma. She could not talk. She could not narrate what she went through. Consequently she became psychologically ill. During the court hearings, the pastor brought a suitcase full of love letters purportedly from the victim. He made it appear that they had a relationship. Eventually they (the victim) lost the case,” said Montes.
“Many rape victims are shocked because it is something that they can’t imagine happening to them. That is why many rape victims could not speak, eat or sleep,” Montes said. She added that while women by nature are resilient, some victims could not handle the trauma and breaks down like Mutya.
To be raped is like having a nightmare that hounds you forever. Montes said when victims encounter things that were used against them, it gives them flashbacks, some break down and some would calmly recall. “There was an instance while we were eating, she held a bottle of softdrinks and said, ‘Tita, they put bottle this big in me.’ But she never told me that during our counseling sessions,” Montes said referring to the 16 year old girl raped by a pastor.
Rape incidence in the Philippines
In 2012, the Gabriela national office received 567 cases of different forms of violence against women and children (VAWC). In 2012, Gabriela received 52 cases of rape, four of the victims were children, and one child victim was murdered.
In the first quarter of 2013, they already received 141 cases of VAWC. Eight were rape cases. Nine involved children victims of rape, attempted rape, gang rape, incest rape and molestation.
Also, according to the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) from 2004 to 2012, rape cases reported to the Philippine National Police (PNP) accounted for 9.6 percent of total VAW cases. National Statistics Office (NSO) data from the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey likewise indicated that nine percent of women aged 15-49 have experienced sexual violence.
Note that these are reported cases. There are victims of rape who remained silent and chose not to report the incidence. “Yes, there are victims who choose not to report their ordeal because of shame. They could not accept that something disgraceful like rape has happened to them. Making matters worse is the slow justice system in the country.”
Montes said this year, many of the complainants were seeking legal help on what action to take. Montes said that this could mean that women now are more aware of their rights.
But the fact still remains that VAWC is still prevalent in the country. Montes said, at present, there is approximately one woman beaten by her partner or husband every 43 minutes while one child is being battered every hour and 20 minutes. A woman or child is harassed every four hours.
Gabriela’s Women’s Health and Services Committee offers counseling to victims of any form of VAWC. They also assist and support victims who pursue cases in court. They also make it a point to make the victims understand the underlying causes of VAWC through educational discussions not only about women’s rights but also about the ills of the society.
“Part of our counseling is to discuss the root causes why violence is being committed. We educate them about the ills of society so that they too will be strengthened and become a part of the movement to change the system,” Montes said.
She also added that the increasing violence is a reflection of the worsening crisis in the country. “Women are the most vulnerable in times of crisis. For example, many mothers are leaving the country to work abroad because jobs are scarce in the country. The jobs that women land abroad are jobs that are vulnerable to abuse like domestic helpers,” Montes said.
Stand against VAWC
Meanwhile, stage actress and activist Monique Wilson calls on media personalities especially comedian Vice Ganda to “use your celebrity status to promote awareness on the issue of violence against women.”
In her Facebook page, Wilson urged artists to contribute to ending violence and not be instruments in its perpetuation. “Do not capitalize on the pain and anguish of others. Immerse yourself in education and understanding of this issue because actions like this – the mockery of such a serious crime against a woman – is one of the things that keeps impunity in place.”
Wilson said that being admired by people comes with a huge responsibility because people look up to them. “You need to carry the gravity of this with more mindfulness and sensitivity – and operate always with love, respect and kindness. And it is not just rape – to mock a woman because of her size and weight is also a form of violence done against her.”
“Listen to the stories of the women who have been raped, or whose daughters have been raped, by fathers, uncles – and gang raped by the military, the police – and just listen and take in. Visit our comfort women lolas at Lila Pilipina. They will tell your stories about how they were raped 70 times a day by Japanese soldiers for years, when they were just 13 or 14 years old. And how they are still waiting for justice now – 65 years later. Be grateful and humbled by what you hear -because you will never want that kind of violence to be done to you or to any woman or girl in your life that you love. And I hope that what you hear pains you and enrages you – that you will want to use your celebrity status in every possible way that you can, to help end violence against our sisters and our mothers. And while you are there – watch and observe all the tireless women’s rights activists who devote their lives to ending violence against women, who risk their lives seeking justice for them. There is much to learn from them. You will be opened in ways you never knew was possible. Your understanding will deepen. And only then will your heart understand why mocking rape and any violence toward a woman – is not a subject you should build your career on. And why it is reprehensible in any space, in any platform – and most specially – on a stage.”