PCW reiterates “choice of clothes” not cause of sexual violence, calls for gender-sensitive info materials

There is rape because there is a rapist. Rape and other forms of sexual abuse are never the victim’s fault.

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) reminds the public never to blame rape or sexual abuse on the victims or their appearance, clothes, location, and other circumstances that tend to shield the perpetrators of such violence or give an excuse for their toxic behavior.

This is following the recent incident of a social media post by a police station, which called on the public to love women and not abuse their kindness, but in the second part, said, “Kayo naman mga gherlsz, huwag kayo magsusuot ng pagkaikli-ikling damit at pag naman nabastos ay magsumbong din sa amin. Isipin niyo rin!” The said post has gone viral, but was subsequently deleted after earning criticisms from various groups and individuals for conveying a correlation between women’s choice of clothing and sexual abuse.

Earlier this year, the PCW officially requested the Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to look into similar incidents of social media pages that appear to be that of various police stations, posting information materials that contain victim-blaming.

Thus, the PCW reiterates that telling women how to dress to prevent sex crimes is erroneous in many levels. One, it perpetuates the stereotyping of how women should be and how they should act. Second, it shifts the burden of “avoiding sexual violence” to the victims when in fact, the problem lies on preventing perpetrators from committing this serious crime.  Third, it is an invalid, illogical, and ineffective anti-sexual abuse tip, because cases have shown that even when a woman is covered from head to toe or wearing a shirt and jeans, a long dress/skirt, rape and other forms of sexual violence still happen.

We also find the statement “pag naman nabastos ay magsumbong din sa amin” problematic since it reinforces what victims of sexual violence fear: being blamed for what happened, so they choose to keep mum about the incident. This runs counter to the advocacy of encouraging women to seek help, which both the government and women’s rights groups have been espousing for decades.

While an apology has been made and the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership vowed to investigate the matter, the PCW hopes that the PNP will take appropriate steps to ensure that such an incident will never be repeated.

Through the WCPC, our police force is one of the frontline service providers where victim-survivors of sexual abuse and other forms of violence against women (VAW) can seek help. As such, officials and employees handling their social media accounts and producing other information materials should observe gender sensitivity and fairness since they have the power to influence people’s mindsets that directly affect the level of trust of citizens to the police force.

Messages from citizens indicate forward steps to becoming VAW-free

We have laws and mechanisms in place to address the issue of sexual violence and other forms of VAW. However, the PCW believes that beyond laws and mechanisms to support its implementation, challenging age-old beliefs and practices that enable the perpetuation of VAW is key to achieving a VAW-free community.

Albeit gradually, the Philippine society is waking up to the reality that victim-blaming, justifying the acts of the perpetrators, limiting the scope of VAW, and invoking that it is man’s nature to lord and lust over women and their bodies are the root causes of the issue.

The PCW received messages from various individuals expressing their concern over the issue. Commendable are individuals, including netizens who continue to voice their enlightened opinions on the matter, notwithstanding the harsh statements and bullying from fellow netizens and popular personalities.
Let us all remember these three ways to end sexual and other forms of VAW: speak out against, never condone, and never commit it.

May our partners at the PNP-WCPC and the entire police force rise above this incident and move forward with better services. The police women’s desk officers continue to attend to women and children victims of violence even during the enhanced community quarantine. May their readiness to serve and protect women and children, no matter what circumstances, be highlighted in their social media and other information campaign, so that VAW victims who continue to suffer in silence could find the courage to seek help, trusting that the law enforces are on their side.