On July 17, 2018, the Angono, Rizal Municipal Police Station posted a public statement on Facebook about how to prevent rape. Written in Filipino, the list included tips like “not wearing revealing clothes” and “not drinking alcohol during a date.”
The post generated more than 4,300 shares and 2,300 reactions. It triggered a social media frenzy after activists and lawmakers criticized the post for its archaic ideas and misogynist content. The reminders perpetuate the idea that rape is the fault of the victim, their clothing, and their actions, putting women in an even more precarious situation.
The Current Rape Statistics in Metro Manila
Data from the Center for Women’s Resources shows that one woman or child is raped every hour in the country every year. From January to October 2016 alone, there were 7,037 reported cases of rape nationwide. CWR Director, Jojo Guan, says that rape in the country is so grave that even the death penalty may not be enough to stop the crime from happening.
Statistics from the National Capital Region Police Office, however, show that rape in Metro Manila decreased by 11 percent in the first half of 2018 compared to last year. Experts cite strategic police visibility and a renewed focus on suspected criminals, especially those involved in the illegal drug trade, behind the decline in violent crime.
Mixed Reactions to “Tips”
Even with cases down in the metro, rape is still one of the most prevalent forms of violence against women in the country. And that’s what’s fueling people across the country to speak up against the controversial anti-rape bulletin.
A social media underground movement that promotes women’s rights called #BabaeAko claimed that the list was problematic because men could blame women for wearing revealing clothes or drunkenness for rape. The movement questioned the police station if they had another version of the guidelines that explain why men should respect women instead.
While the bulletin contains practical tips like practicing self-defense and screaming for help, not every victim can fight back or warn people when a crime is taking place. What’s worse is they get blamed for not taking action, as well.
While many share the sentiments of the group, others defended the Angono Police by sharing that the guideline encompasses all genders, men included. Facebook user Carol Peralta shared her disappointment that some people took the tips the wrong way. She adds that self-discipline can help protect oneself from the crime, too.
The Angono Police apologized for the Facebook post, but clarified that it was part of a campaign to protect women.
An Overlooked Detail
In an alternate Manila universe, people would just walk around sober, with a black belt in taekwondo, in layers of clothes on well-lit streets, pepper spray in hand.
Some of the “prevention tips” in the bulletin not only don’t work (i.e., people working the night shift who live in areas where dark streets are the norm don’t have a choice but to go against the bulletin’s “tip number 3”). But the list also seems to place ALL the responsibilities on the victim.
Whatever happened to the concept of consent in this conversation?
Whether the violent crime happens to a woman or a man, consent plays a crucial role in the prosecution. But what constitutes consent?
- Consent does not entail begging, pressuring, and guilting someone into having sex
- Consent is explicit and specific; a “yes” to a kiss is not a go-signal for sex. More importantly, skimpy clothes are not an open invitation to violate a person’s right to consent.
- Consent is not a binding contract in which a woman (or man) has no right to change her (or his) mind. A person has the freedom to change their mind before and during sexual activity.
Under the law, parties must prove that consent was not only freely given but valid in terms of age and mental capacity. Unfortunately, Philippine law sets the rightful age of consent at 12 years old.
The Angono Police Bulletin on rape, while it may have had good intentions, only served to highlight another problem: that the blame seems to end up in the hands of the victim.