By Carissa Vicencio
Some douchebag you know might’ve been crass enough about it to post pathetic memes saying “bae” should “dress properly” lest she draw hoots from random men in the street, but it doesn’t change the fact that catcalling—more so, rape and other forms of sexual harassment—happens more frequently than you can imagine. According to a recent study by the Center for Women’s resources, a Filipino woman or a child is raped every 53 minutes and a woman is battered every 16 minutes. You need not go far to gather enough evidence.
Exhibit A: President Rodrigo Duterte’s wolf-whistling at a TV reporter, sparking controversy among netizens. Exhibit B: The Stanford rape case involving what could-have-been swimming sensation Brock Turner and the numerous letters his family and friends wrote to support his claims of innocence. Exhibit C: A cab driver being arrested by Taguig police for raping and stealing from a drunk girl after he kidnapped her from her friends. One theme rings true in all of these cases: The accused offering “apologetic” excuses for their lack of knowledge, that any form of sexual harassment is somehow 1% the victim’s wrongdoing, and that rapists and harassers should be given the benefit of the doubt, too. It’s become the way of the world—at least, for now. What can you do? Know the three bs that’ll help tear this rape culture down!
Education is the best prevention. According to empower.org.ph, “rape has existed in society since the beginning of time, but, in our country, only 10% are reported and only 3% are ever successful in court.” Catcalling, meanwhile, has become casually weaved into everyday conversation, as passersby continue to be the target of unsolicited “compliments” when walking down the street.
Many may not know it, but rape and catcalling are in fact under the same umbrella concept of sexual harassment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment in its guidelines as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.”
Fortunately, there are some signs of progress in the country. As an example, the Quezon City government is taking action against sexual harassment by passing a gender and development ordinance to reduce catcalling and other forms of street level sexual harassment against women. The fine ranges from P1,000 to P5,000, and the sentence may last from a day to a year. Most importantly, communication about sexual harassment should be a two-way street. The fact that society teaches women to be on their best behaviour at a club without calling out the untoward behavior of the men around them is already saying something about what is expected among sexes. Always call for equality. Educate women and men. Knowing more about these topics gives you the chance to share thoughts with others, opening the floor for more discussion and, eventually, eliminating sexual harassment.
You are your best weapon, you are your most valuable form of defense, and it pays to use it to your advantage. These suggestions revolve around situations involving the use of alternative transportation services, which will make your commute simpler and safer. However, you still can’t ignore the possibility of danger. There have been stories around the world of evil people posing as Uber or Grab drivers, deceiving passengers into getting in the vehicle and into trouble. So, here are some tips for those booking rides on either Uber or Grab:
Double-check the pickup and drop-off locations you’ve input before booking. If traveling to a place for the first time, it’s best to have the directions for several routes (via EDSA, via C5, etc.) on hand.
Always verify the ID and plate number of the driver and the vehicle before getting in. If someone else books the car for you, make sure the person is there with you when the driver arrives to confirm the driver’s identity. If the person isn’t with you, have him or her send you a screenshot of the needed information.
Once you’ve booked your ride, wait in a safe area. The driver should send you a message, saying that he or she has arrived at the pickup location. If you have to wait outside, look for a crowded area. This would lessen the likelihood of potential harassers seeing you waiting alone and thinking of posing as your driver.
Share your ride tracking details with family and friends. Keep in touch with them while you’re on your way.
Now, even if you do everything right, there are still chances of assault while you’re in the back of the car. If you feel uncomfortable being with your driver, message your family and friends right away. Keep them updated about which streets you’re passing or what routes you’re taking.
If you encounter an area that has little or no signal at all, try FireChat. It’s a free private messaging app that works even without internet connection or network coverage. Instead, it uses Bluetooth and WiFi to connect. Have your loved ones download the app, too, so they’ll be able to contact you without the hassle of trying to get a better signal. You can also use the ever-so-trusty phone tracking settings on your iOS or Android device. Your family member or friend just inputs your password onto the website and it will instantly showthem where you are.
If all else fails, rely on your physical ability. A Modern Filipina article provides a list of self-defense classes “that could double as great workouts”—from Krav Maga to arnis to boxing! If you don’t have enough money or time to take these sessions, Rener and Eve Gracie, Brazilian jiu jitsu instructors from Gracie Breakdown, have come up with a tutorial video on how you can equip yourself with defensive moves without burning a hole through your pocket. Look their tutorial up on YouTube!
Your body is not on this Earth to be consumed, even if the media is constantly pressuring women to appear and act a certain way, often as sexual objects, without giving them a chance to like it or not. As Lena Dunham aptly put it, “[A body] is a vessel [we’ve] been given to move through this life. [It’s] a tool to do the stuff [we] need to do, but not the be all and end all of [our] existence.”
Forget Maria Clara who you were taught to embody in high school. You’re no longer voiceless or timid. You’re just as independent, confident, and valuable as any modern Filipino. So, no, you don’t need to change the way you dress because it’s more convenient for a man’s lack of self-control. You won’t give him a fake number because it’s more beneficial to your safety.
In an article by Christina Cauterucci on Dallas News, she says, “Women of any age deserve to feel beautiful, desirable, and of great import to the world. She shouldn’t have to use others' opinions of her to measure her value.”
Niña Terol from McCann World Group Philippines says that “today’s woman can accomplish things that weren’t traditionally considered ‘for women.’ Sometimes, women will push boundaries simply because they know they can." She feels good about having the freedom to define herself any way she wants to (even if society thinks otherwise).”
Once you establish that attitude, you can take control of your own everyday decisions—from the way you present yourself, to the places you decide to party at, to the people you want to meet. You, and you alone, are enough to make those decisions for yourself. In fact, you’re worth more than enough.
FLIP THE SCRIPT
A 20-something guy confesses to being a victim of such forms of harassments.
I’ve had my fair share of ‘catcalls.’ The term itself pa lang already makes me uncomfortable. I used to pass through a street every day filled with temporary residents. There’s one small house na may dalawang babae na laging nakatambay. They’d smile at me when I’d pass by. I’d smile back at them, but keep walking. As time passed, those harmless smiles turned into ‘Gwapo mo! Pa-kiss!’ winks, and attempts to grab my arm. Sa isip ko, ‘This is how it feels when guys tell girls they’re ‘hot,’ when they’re not even asking for attention. They’re just walking down the street.’ I didn’t think that my polite smile already meant a go signal for these girls to be vocal about what they think of me. Grabe, nakakagalit at nakakainis. I chose another route after several of their attempts to get me to answer them. I just wanted that part of my day to be forgotten. I know it’s not a solution kasi dapat both men and women should be properly taught not to do that to anyone. ‘Mabait’ doesn’t mean ‘malandi’ na ako. People should be given the proper education about sex and everything in between. It would really make passersby feel safer, including me."
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