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Posts Tagged ‘University of the Philippines Baguio’

Modern Abuse: Cyberbullying in the Philippines

March 13, 2012 2 comments

by Ana Phyllis Isla

Rose, 16 years old & currently a 3rd year high school student in Baguio city, likes posting photos of herself on Facebook. One afternoon, when she checked her profile page, she found some very offensive comments from a particular group of her classmates. She decided to brush it off as she wasn’t friends with any of them but the same thing happened again after she updated her status and again when she posted another photo. “Nagets ko kagad na hindi nila ako lulubayan” (“It didn’t take me that long to realize that they weren’t planning on stopping any time soon,”) she said.

Peter K. Smith and Sonia Sharp explained that bullying is a systematic abuse of power. It is a repetitive and aggressive behaviour carried out by a person or a group of people against an individual who cannot readily defend themselves. According to StopBullying.gov, bullying is a frequent and serious problem but the rise of technology also gave rise to a new and more potent method to the abuse – Cyberbullying.

Dr. Sameer Hinduja and Dr. Justin Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center described the Cyberbullying phenomena as “wilful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” It has been also defined as a situation when an individual is repeatedly tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another person using text messages using the Short Messaging System (SMS), e-mails, or any other type of digital technology.

Here in the Philippines, Filipinos are definitely enjoying the perks that technology brings. In fact, we are often dubbed as the “Texting Capital of the World” as Filipinos send billions of SMS messages per year. Also, according to the report released by the SocialBakers.com, an analytics and statistics monitoring web page, as of February 2012, the Philippines ranks eighth in the most number of Facebook users in the world, with approximately 27, 720, 300 Filipino Facebook users. Facebook’s penetration in the Philippines is about 27.75% of the country’s total population, with the youth, ages 13 – 17, comprising about 20% of the Philippine Facebook population.

Technology and the Internet have improved the lives of people, communication is easier and entertainment can be achieved in just a few clicks. However, the advent of the ‘modern world’ also brings with it adverse effects. Although Social Networking sites such as Twitter & Facebook were created to ‘bridge the gaps between people’, they have been an ideal, ‘virtual playground’ for cyberbullies. According to a survey by the Cyberbullying Research Center, about 20 percent of students from ages 11 to 18 surveyed last year said they’d been cyberbullied at some point in their lives. According to the National Crime Prevention Center, over 40% of all teenagers with Internet access have reported being bullied online on 2008.

Facebook has opened many opportunities as a communication tool, however, it also paved a new way for abusers to expand the reach and the extent of the harm they do. As many as the ‘fan pages’ that runs rampant through the Facebook groups feature are the ‘hate’ groups  or the ‘Anti-’ groups of such pages. One example is 16-year-old Chienna Filomeno’s “We hate Chienna Filomeno” group. Her hate group’s posts are always derogatory to young Chienna and the comments even more so. The moderator of the hate group would post pictures of her in compromising positions and encourage the commenters to post their opinions, which are usually mean and unforgiving. Chienna Filomeno is a cosplayer from a prominent high school in Manila and sometimes people claiming to be her schoolmates would post there and say thing like, “Ay! Kilala ko yan sa school! Malandi talaga yan!” (Oh! I know her from our school! She really is promiscuous!) One of the posts on the group showed Chienna on a bed with her former boyfriend, followed by a post of her former boyfriend implying that Chienna is no longer a ‘virgin’. There were no holds barred on the virtual audience. Many were calling her names and questioning even her parent’s values, some pitied her and tried to vindicate her actions but they were soon met with malicious replies enough for them to give up.

There are many detrimental outcomes of cyberbullying. Many targets of cyberbullying report feeling depressed, sad, angry, and frustrated. And some victims who experience cyberbullying are also afraid or embarrassed to go to school. Victims of cyberbullying also tend to develop low self-esteem. Research also shows that there are links between cyberbullying and family problems, academic problems, school violence, and delinquent behaviour. And while the cyberbully rarely inflicts physical harm to their victims, the psychological damage they cause, if bad enough, can compel the cybervictims to inflict physical harm on themselves. In fact, there have already been a number of young people around the world taking their own lives due to cyberbullying.

Derrick, a 14-year-old highschool student, confessed that ever since he realized his gender preference in Elementary, he has long since accepted the fact that there would always be people who would be critical of him. However, he still gets pretty upset whenever some people call him names online. Some even text him using a number he doesn’t recognize and slams him for being a homosexual. He said that he is not sure about the identity of his attackers and that the sense of not knowing who his attackers are has developed into some sort of paranoia. “Paminsan-minsan hindi ko na kilala kung sino ang mga kaibigan ko at sino ang mga kaaway ko.” (Sometimes I don’t even know who my friends are and who my enemies are.) One time, the abuse got so bad that he refused to go to school for two days. His parents were worried but he never told his parents about what he was going through because he was afraid that they would not understand his situation. Also, he thinks that telling them won’t do anything good anyway.

Cyberbullying can be much worse than the ‘traditional’ bullying as it has more vicious characteristics. First, of course, is the anonymity of the cyberbully. Although in reality the victims of cyberbullying may actually know who their attacker is, it will just be lost behind the cloak of anonymous email addresses, pseudonymous screen names, or private cellphone numbers. The very small likelihood of tracing where the message came from actually encourages the negative behaviour. It strips the cyberbully of his inhibitions and frees him from the constraints of consequences. It can be very easy to be cruel with the use of technology. A study by Michele L. Ybarra and Kimberly J. Mitchell, which examined youth engaging in online harassment, found that adolescents who would not act aggressively in the traditional bullying scenario might feel less constrained on-line. The “anonymity associated with online interactions may strip away many aspects of socially accepted roles, leading the Internet to act as a potential equaliser for aggressive acts”. As communication is no longer bound by time or space, a cyberbully can send an untraceable offensive message from any computer in any café or private laptop or cellphone at whatever time of day or night.

In today’s world where communication is 24/7, it is becoming more and more difficult to be separated from your own mobile device. It has come to the point where not owning one can lead to ostracism. As Hinduja & Patchin has observed, the youth has completely embraced interactions via cellphones and computers.  And since the victims themselves cannot be parted from their own handheld gadget, they become more vulnerable to the abuse. They always have the option of leaving their mobile gadget off but then it isolates them from the incoming messages that are actually of some importance or relevance. Mario, a 3rd year high school student here, said, “Paano ‘pag biglang tumawag si mama? Paano ‘pag emergency? ‘Pag naiwan ko wallet ko sa bahay, ok lang sa’kin kasi pwede naman ako mangutang sa mga kaibigan ko. Pero ‘pag cellphone ko na yung naiwan…kulang na lang liparin ko yung bahay namin.” (What if my mother calls? What if there’s an emergency? I’m okay with accidentally leaving my wallet at home because I can always borrow some money from my friends but if I leave my cellphone at home…I have to go back even if I need to fly home.)

In the Philippines, we often hear celebrities like Sarah Geronimo being victims of cyberbullying. Celebrities are often the victims of identity theft as people use their names and pictures to create an account for their personal use. But even from the stars themselves, there are cyberbullies. Ampalaya Anonymous is a clique formed by popular actresses who recently gained popularity for reportedly bullying a fellow actress via Twitter. And although she has vehemently denied it, Kim Chiu and her group of friends were put on a spot for reports of cyberbullying. University of the Philippines Diliman Sociology and Anthropology professor, Dr. Virgilio Binghay, explained that the rampant identity stealing and cyber-bullying is a form of crab mentality. Cyberbullies pull other people down for their own personal agenda.

“Kasi, Ate, alam mo yung Gossip Girl? Parang ganun yun feeling,”(Ate, do you know Gossip Girl? That’s what it feels like,) Apple, a 15-year-old high school student, replied when asked why she was posting rumours about her on classmates on Facebook. She said that her classmates go to her ‘Gosssip Girl’ page to know what other people’s dirty laundry are. She said that she doesn’t think she’s doing anything wrong because she’s just simply posting the things that everyone’s saying. “Pinaguusapan naman ng lahat sa school, nilalagay ko lang naman sa FB.” (Everyone’s talking about it at school anyway. I’m merely posting the stuff on FB.)

Gossip Girl is an American TV series that revolves around a virtual entity called ‘Gossip Girl’ who posts rumours in a blog about Manhattan’s Upper East Side. After the show launched in 2007, it also started the trend of internet ‘Gossip Blogs’ where you can find rumours about the ‘people in your neighbourhood’. Perhaps there is no single answer as to why people act as cyberbullies. As James Lehman points out, some people simply bully other people because it solves their social problems. It might satisfy their need for attention or it might be the one gaining them respect. In adolescents, bullying is a means to finding one’s identity and establishing their place in their clique. But of course, bullying is never right.

In various parts of the world, many governments are acting to criminalise cyberbullying. There are also efforts to do the same here in the Philippines. Last year, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago had filed Senate Bill no. 2677, or the Anti-Bullying School Policy Act. In an explanatory note, she acknowledged the existence of cyberbullying and its long-term threats. The Anti-Bullying School Policy Act would require all schools to create policies that would address and increase the awareness on the issues of bullying and cyberbullying in their school. “A direct correlation with the reduction of bullying incidents is the increase in awareness and concern among school administrators of these incidents, and the positive action of providing venues for parents, faculty and school officials to report such incidents to authorities,” she said.

Cyberbullying here in the Philippines doesn’t get much attention as there are no official reported cases about it. But just because it remains unreported doesn’t mean that it is not happening. Interviews with the local high school students here show that the youth are aware that cyberbullying is a serious issue. However, most of them do not know how to react when faced with those kinds of situations. Majority of the students just keeps mum about it because they think that it is a ‘normal’ part of the ‘online experience’. Cyberbullying affects many adolescents on a daily basis and while it may be difficult to stop, it is not impossible. Everyone can help stop Cyberbullying by making other people, especially the youth, aware about the real deal on Cyberbullying. The first step is to educate the youth on what can be classified as cyberbullying and that cyberbullying is wrong and is not a ‘normal’ behaviour or experience. It is also good to encourage victims of cyber bullying to talk to adults or other people when they are experiencing cyberbullying instead of merely putting up with it. Of course, the youth themselves also have to be more responsible with what information they post online. As a user of a social networking site, what the content of their site would be on their own jurisdiction. However, they should be more aware on what could be considered as inappropriate content. As a campaign of a local media here in the Philippines say: Think before you click.

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It’s Not Always the Case: Breaking Pedophilia Myths and Misconceptions

March 12, 2012 24 comments

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.

Conclusion

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.