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  • ‘Do Not Force Kids To Hug Or Kiss Relatives’: Experts Share How To Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse

    “Ayaw kong mangyari sa anak ko ang na-experience ko nung bata pa ako.”
    by Dahl D. Bennett .
‘Do Not Force Kids To Hug Or Kiss Relatives’: Experts Share How To Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse
PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK
  • ‘How can I protect my child from sexual abuse and predators?’ This is a question every parent must have asked themselves multiple times.

    Some mommies in our Smart Parenting Village Facebook group have been encouraging other moms to start teaching their toddlers about sexuality and how to protect themselves.

    One Mommy shares how, as early as 4 years-old, she is already teaching her daughter how to identify her private parts and that no other person should be allowed to touch these parts.

    “Ayaw kong mangyari sa anak ko ang na-experience ko nung bata pa ako,” she reveals.

    This mom bravely shared that she has experienced sexual abuse as a child under the hands of a relative and is now extra protective of her daughter.  

    Another shared a similar experience and tells other Smart Parenting Villagers to keep a tight watch on their children. “Wag kayong magtitiwala kahit kanino. Kahit sa kadugo niyo pa!” she writes.

    A Mommy who was abused when she was 9 years old by her 12 year-old playmate, says she has not overcome her childhood trauma now that she is in her late 20s and with a child. She tells other parents that they have the power to protect their children.  “May kapangyarihan tayo para di maranasan ng anak natin, babae man o lalake, yung ganung pangyayari by having an awareness sa body parts nila kahit bata pa lang at ang kahalagahan ng consent,” she says. 

    7 ways parents can protect their children from sexual abuse.

    Sexual abuse is on the rise in the Philippines and the statistics are further compounded by the lockdowns implemented during the pandemic, according to the Women and Gender Institute (WAGI), Miriam College’s specialized center for research, training and advocacy on women’s rights.

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    Citing a report from the Department of Justice,  the Institute shares that there is an 256% increase in cases of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children from 2019 (76, 561) to 2020 (280,000) between the months of March to May alone. Moreover, figures from the Philippine National Police show that 739 rape cases were committed against children from March 17 to June 11, 2020.

    “This is the peak of the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine from which we can then conclude that perpetrators of this crime are committed by family members and/or relatives of the child,” says Dr. Mel Reyes, WAGI Executive Director.

    WAGI, which actively provides seminars and trainings for social workers and parents from communities, says that there are several ways in which parents can teach their children how to protect themselves from sexual predators whether online or off.

    The Institute stresses on the importance of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), a process of teaching and learning about cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality. Here, the different members of WAGI share key steps parents can take to teach and empower children to protect themselves from sexual abuse.

    1. Start early. 

    CSE should begin as early as when children can understand their body parts–an approach parents can take at the earliest stage is teaching children the appropriate names of their private parts (i.e. vagina, penis). It is important to do away with code names like flower or cookie and bird to refer to refer to these body parts. “Children are better protected if they can name their body parts because they are able to clearly communicate when someone has touched them inappropriately,” says Danica Gonzalez, WAGI’s Young Women Leadership Program Coordinator.

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    2. Talk about consent.

    For parents with younger children, you can apply this by simply informing your child when you are about to clean their private parts even if they do not fully understand why and what you are telling them. In social situations like playdates, teach your child to respect the physical boundaries of other children and people. In their teens, ensure they understand that consent should be F.R.I.E.S–Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, and Specific. This acronym is a framework used in planned parenthood.

    3. Keep conversations open.

    Normalize conversations around sex and sexuality. Topics like dating, gender identities, and sex should be a topic children can openly talk about with their parents. In addition, it is important to build trust by assuring your child that if something unusual happens to him or her, you will be there to listen.

    4. Intervene when needed.

    As parents, do not force your children to hug or kiss relatives especially if they are not comfortable doing it, says Dr. Reyes.  “This is a common scenario during family reunions or get togethers. We should avoid doing this to also save our children from receiving inappropriate remarks just because they do not want to hug or kiss relatives,” she adds.

    5. Monitor their online activities.

    Download the Family Link app, or other similar apps, that allow you to monitor what your children are downloading and watching even when you are not with them. Check on the number of hours they are spending online. Orient them on the kind of videos they should not watch and explain to them why. “I think it is important that we explain to our children why they are not allowed to download or watch those clips, rather than just prohibiting them,” says Dr. Reyes.

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    6. Believe in your child, it’s non-negotiable.

    Should your child tell you about an incident, let him or her know that you believe them, that you support them, and that they were right in telling you what happened to them. Do not express disbelief. Reassure him or her it is not their fault. Do not express victim blaming or fatalism and give statements like “everything happens for a reason”, “God has a plan for you”. Don't play into stereotypes or express him-pathy and say statements like “you’ll ruin his life if you report him.”

    7. Be quick to act.

    Parents or relatives who know about an abuse by an acquaintance or relative should immediately report it to the police. It is highly advised to act on the situation quickly so as not to give the perpetrator or abuser time to flee from the area or escape punishment.

    “Parents should keep in mind that their children’s well-being is more important than what others will say,” says Shenina Badua, WAGI Technical Assistant. It is also important to lead the battle with your child, says Dr. Reyes. “For legal matters, consult a lawyer, and for the mental health and wellness of your child, you may need to consult a psychologist or psychiatrist.

    For parents who have experienced sexual abuse as a child, WAGI reiterates the need to find healing whether through a consultation with a mental health practitioner or government and non-government organizations. “If you slowly allow yourself to heal and to seek the help you need, you will not only see how it will change your disposition and emotions but also how it will significantly change your relationship with your children,” says Samantha Chikiamco, WAGI Project Associate. Here are several organizations in the Philippines where abused individuals can go:

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    The Center for the Prevention & Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA) a non-profit, non-government child-focused institution working towards a safe world for children free from sexual abuse and exploitation based in Quezon City

    EPCAT Philippines, a non-government organization composed of networks and individuals around the world working together to End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. 

    Department of Social Work and Development or CWC (Council for the Welfare of Children), the inter-agency body of the Philippine Government for children

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