It’s Not Always the Case: Breaking Pedophilia Myths and Misconceptions
by Isha Marie Maganis, Angela Louise Rosario, Dyan Eliza Sipcon
A pedophile is defined as an uneducated, poor, foreign, and mentally-retarded male. According to Merriam-Webster, pedophilia is the “sexual perversion in which children are the preferred sexual object,” while a pedophile is the “one affected with pedophilia.”
This is also how the society perceives pedophiles. However, in reality, this is not always the case.
According to Jannie, a graduate of family science and founder of http://www.Child-Safety-For-Parents.com, a qualified pedophile must “have repeated urges to be sexually involved with a child, fantasize to the point that relationships with other adults are damaged or destroyed, and be so obsessed that the person can’t function well in society anymore.”
Reported pedophilia cases in the previous years are noted in Baguio City blurring people’s perceptions of pedophiles.
Case # 1
“Carlo*” was a teenager at that time. He was staying at their house when he suddenly heard a knock. He went to the door to find out who it was. When he opened the door, he saw a group of alleged missionaries. They were going from one house to another, “spreading the word of God.” The moment they learned that Carlo was alone in the house; they pulled him in and raped him.
Case # 2
“Margot*” was five years old then. Her mother was an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) and she was not there to take care of Margot most of the time. Margot’s mother needed to hire a caregiver to look after Margot. “Macy*” was a male homosexual. He liked children and was known to be nice and close with the kids. With that knowledge, Margot’s mom was confident to leave her children with Macy. Macy took advantage of the situation and sexually-abused Margot. The mother learned of the situation but it was too late.
Case # 3
This case took place in a computer shop that happened last year. “Dino*” was a local government official, who was alleged to be walking around a computer shop at night, convincing boys to go with him to his house. Fr. Geraldo Costa, a Brazilian priest expert in child psychology and director of Sunflower Children’s Center, a center in Baguio dedicated for the welfare of children, believes that Dino has more than one strategy in getting the boys’ trust. Fr. Costa added that Dino played with them, gave them food, and such. Dino was giving what the boy needed at the moment, which was because he has the money to lure them. He pays for the boys’ gaming hours and then the latter will forget about their curfew.
*names have been changed for privacy
Myths and Misconceptions about Pedophilia
Every day, people hear different news disseminated by media. People are already used to different facts due to the usual occurrence of news. People come up with misconceptions and myths, and develop their own definitions according to what the news tell them, without further understanding. This is the same with pedophilia.
1. If a person is normal, he is not pedophiliac.
People like to watch the news and comment afterwards. We always hear people saying, “If a person is in his right mind, he would not even think about doing such a thing.” They may not say it directly but people look at others in the shades of black and white. There is no compromise. In the case of pedophiles, people often perceive ‘normal’ people as ‘not pedophiliacs’ and ‘crazy’ people as ‘pedophiliacs.’
2. Pedophiles are always foreigners.
Media sensationalize news involving foreigners. The Philippines is a developing country that looks up to people coming from other countries. Having foreigners as violators or abusers is already a big issue for most media people. It has also been perceived that since foreigners have the money, they are the only ones capable to lure children.
3. All pedophiles are males, whereas all their victims are girls.
The Philippines is a patriarchal society. Male dominance is still evident in families, media, politics, and such. Although females of this generation try to equate themselves with males, what continues to emerge is the stereotype that they are physically, mentally, and emotionally weak. Thus, it makes males the qualified gender to be pedophiliac and seemingly impossible for females.
Also, in most reported cases girls are victims because they are perceived to be weaker and an easier target. They are also more vocal than boys.
4. All pedophilia cases include sexual activities.
Almost all reports in police blotters and in news accommodate pedophilia cases having sexual intercourse. When you say sexual pleasure, words such as intercourse and penetration of the genitals come to mind. Verbal abuse and other forms of abuse were not put into consideration because of its rarity. The general public was not completely informed of different cases wherein children can be abused. People also usually avoid talking about these conservative issues.
5. Pedophiles are usually middle-aged men.
Father figures like stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, and whoever close to the victim were the ones usually reported as the perpetrators. Some were even described to be as Dirty Old Men.
6. Victims are always forced by pedophiles.
Their perpetrators are usually dominant and connected to being a father figure. As such, the victims were always perceived to be forced, that they did not want everything that happened between them and their perpetrators. The victims usually appear that they are sad and devastated, and that they are used, manipulated, and violated.
Breaking the Myths
Fr. Costa, generally described pedophiles as a person “…that is normal, heterosexual, with a partner, who is of the same age but at certain times he becomes a child abuser.” He also added that children are used for sexual purposes.
“Anyone can be a pedophile with enough psychological disturbances,” said Fr. Costa. A number of pedophile cases in Baguio City have been turned over to his care over the years. The worrisome fact is that these pedophile cases do not include incest cases.
People consider persons who have illnesses or diseases as not ‘normal,’ however, ‘normal’ is relative. As a reiteration of what Fr. Costa said, anyone could be a pedophile. A person can be sane even if he is pedophiliac. Pedophilia only develops when triggered by something he needs at the moment─ psychological, emotional, or physical needs. Reasons could be personal, like marital affairs, when the husband is no longer satisfied with his emotional and physical relationship with his wife. Pedophilia can also be triggered when he had experienced and witnessed abuse and violence in his early years.
People may think it is not normal, but pedophilia is a common deviation a person can experience. The act could be a release from stress.
Foreigners are involved in pedophile cases; however, reported cases in Baguio City also include local people. Surprisingly, these pedophiles are not only foreigners, but also the Filipinos’ own kababayans. The local media tend to sensationalize reports involving foreigners because they are the aliens of the community.
Another myth that people still believe is that males are the only perpetrators and girls are their victims. There are some cases that actually comprise women that were mentioned by a social worker, but the cases cannot be disclosed for confidentiality. Also, because the perpetrators are women, their identities cannot be revealed by media.
A news article entitled “Barriers to Solving Child Abuse in Community Cited,” published in Baguio Midland Courier last March 20, 2011, and written by Leia Castro discussed a forum that was held last March 16, 2011 at St. Louis University CCA Theater. The said forum, “Boys are Abused Too!” brought out the issue regarding the public’s lack of awareness on child abuse, especially on boys.
In an interview with Mrs. Liza Balao, Social Welfare Officer III of the Silungan Center, mentioned that there were no pedophile cases, having boys as victims, in Baguio City last year. She said that the only case reported was last 2007. The incident involved a foreign national and two minors aged 15 and 16. The boys were recruited by the foreigner from Mindanao, took them to different places in the Philippines, and eventually ended up in Baguio City. The foreigner promised them things in order to gain their trust so they would go with him. They rented a place somewhere in Baguio City. The boys were just staying in the house and the foreigner was the only one going in and out. He was the one who provided their needs. Their landlady noticed that something suspicious was going on and reported it to the police. The foreigner was charged for child abuse. He is in jail up to the present, however, according to Mrs. Balao, he is doing everything to be released. She added that he even filed cases against her and other social workers.
Another instance related to the abuse of boys was posted in the internet. That instance showed more reason to advocate awareness on the abuse. Bulatlat.com, an alternative online publication, posted a letter from Mr. Angelico Mercader, a former Department of Education (DepEd) officer. He narrated how his kids were sexually harassed by SM security personnel during an inspection. The incident happened last April 29, 2006. He stated in the letter, “After I was inspected, I saw the guard frisking my sons from the waist down to their private parts, one after the other. I freaked out when I saw what the guard did, as I also saw him smiling while my two sons were looking at me helplessly. I reprimanded him and said that he had just sexually harassed my children. Instead of apologizing, he argued that he was only joking and that he wasn’t gay and that my children were boys anyway.”
In the same letter, he mentioned about their advocacy against child abuse. During that time, people were still in denial and oblivious on cases involving sexually abused boys. Unfortunately, the incident was not taken seriously. SM Baguio did not do anything about it. Mr. Mercader filed a complaint to the police and continued the fight in court. He won the case; however, he believed that the court’s decision was not enough. The decision stated that the security guard was charged for crime of unjust vexation. He added that unjust vexation is a minor offense and, at that time, the fine was only Php 5 to 200 or imprisonment of 1 to 30 days. Another thing, if a case does not fit descriptions of a specific abuse, the case would fall under unjust vexation.
Penetration of genitals is not always present in pedophile cases. Fr. Costa explained the reason behind pedophilia. He said, “I believe that it is not sexual or genital pleasure. It’s power. That’s why in Europe there are several cases wherein they hide children in their houses (in the roof or a very secretive place). It is the power of handling. That’s why authorities, sexual related or political related, are very much into sexual abuse with children. You see the whole game of power. They are stimulated with the hold of power they can impose. To have a child or meaning individual completely under their control. It is a sickness. It’s a psychotic element. The individual thinks that he can do anything to that individual because he has him under full power.” Unknown to many, the sexual or genital pleasure they get is only a bonus.
According to Fr. Costa, there are people who are called, “consexuals,” “who get the trust of boys in difficult situations, usually in Maharlika area.” In the Urban Dictionary definition, consexual means, “a sexual identifier indicating a preference for mutually consensual sexual contact.” They blatantly express their sexual identity and preferences. They ask the boy to live with them and, in return, give them sexual favors.
In some instances, boys are willing to sell their flesh in the areas of Burnham Park and Maharlika. However, there were no reported cases in Baguio local police from 2010 to 2011. Most reported cases were boys as victims of physical abuse. The closely related case filed was unjust vexation. In short, there is a whole market of prostitution in Baguio City.
In the end, it all boils down to power. Power over another human being has becoming an addiction. Gaining power has become an achievement or a game to be won. The chase is the thing that stimulates the pedophile and sexual contact is just a freebie.
Fr. Costa stressed that a pedophile often attempts to get the boys’ trust through promising and/or giving things. Victims are usually from poor communities and, sometimes, with a history of neglect.
Fr. Costa stated that there is no medicine or permanent treatment for pedophilia because it is a psychotic tendency. On the other hand, the victims can undergo psychotherapy. The duration of the treatment depends on factors such as the extent of trauma and age of the victim. The younger ones are more resilient that the older ones. There were cases that the trauma comes back, most especially during their puberty stage. Sometimes, after the treatment, when another incident of sexual abuse occurs, trauma comes back.
According to Fr. Costa, the children sometimes tell the incident to their parents. However, the parents sometimes do not always pay attention. The child does not do anything anymore because he tends to think that he is wrong because his parents did not mind him. He felt that his parents did not trust him.
More advocacies are also needed to protect and promote peaceful youth of the children. Boys and girls alike are afraid to talk since their parents usually do not mind them. Another, to save the family’s reputation, the issue becomes confined and justice is not given to the child.