Child rights advocacy group enjoins government, civil society organizations to strengthen response on abuse of boys

After the enactment last year of Republic Act 11648 raising the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 and equalizing the protection of girls and boys against all forms of sexual abuse, violence and exploitation, the advocacy for children’s rights continues.

This year, the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA), which has been working towards a safer world for children for over 20 years in the Philippines, sets the focus on the care and protection of boys with a call for a strengthened response especially from local government units (LGUs) in providing services for boys.

Zenaida Rosales, CPTCSA executive director, said, “Despite the landmark law, the reality is that there is much more to be done, and all the more should we heighten our response,” as she enjoined LGUs to support the work of nongovernment and private institutions with improved capabilities and services.

Rosales cited the new 2020 CPTCSA study, “Developing effective services to meet the needs of boys who have been sexually abused,” which explored the response of agencies around the country that worked with boys, including social workers, psychologists, psychometricians and house parents who work in institutions that serve boys.

The purpose of the study was to begin to synthesize best practices from research with what was available and provided to boys.

The most glaring gap was the lack of holistic sex and sexuality training for all staff and thus, the lack of adequate sex and sexuality services to boys. Sexually abused boys need competent sexuality services during the early stages of intervention. Sex education was provided but tended to focus on reproduction or safe sex from disease. Boys prefer to learn about sex from men, yet most of these services are provided by women.

The study emphasized the need for strengthened (LGU) capabilities because family and child rehabilitation services for boys who experience abuse, including financial support, psychiatric consultations and psychopharmacological interventions to increase boys’ protection are often dependent on the LGUs.

Boys are sexually abused at the same rate as girls, but more girls report abuse and receive help, said the study, noting that, “We need to better understand why boys don’t report or seek help. A common statement by boys and young men is that if or when they do report sexual abuse, boys do not get the same level of attention or services that girls who report abuse get.”

The study also said it is important to address factors such as why boys who are survivors of abuse do not seek help for fear of being misunderstood or not listened to. Among the biggest concerns of male victims is their fear that because they were abused by a man, they will now be identified as homosexual, which tends to be perceived as negative.

There is a growing need to understand what services and interventions are provided to boys who are survivors of abuse.

In looking at both government and nongovernment interventions, the study recommended the empowerment of social workers and other direct workers with enhanced understanding and professional skills to provide counseling that includes trauma-focused assessment, as it underscored the scarcity of psychologists especially in the provinces.

The study also called for a better and authentic understanding of the concept of gendered services that focus on the challenges that boys face in a patriarchal society that is different from the challenges faced by girls; increase the number of male social workers and community workers; male-focused research on child sexual abuse and the use of the research in social work in colleges and universities.

In the 2016 “National Baseline Study on Violence against Children” conducted by the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) and UNICEF, abuse and violence in the school, community and at home happened more with boys at 81.5% than girls, 78.4%, with the rate of psychological violence against boys at 65.2%.

The CPTCSA and its partner CWC, start this year’s advocacy with the observance of the 27th Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Week for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation, with the call to “Stop online and offline sexual abuse and exploitation of children” on Feb. 5-11.

With LGUs taking the lead in the activities, on February 6, the CPTCSA, CWC and UNICEF will be in the kick-off activity in Valenzuela City through an in-person and livestreamed-via-FB event.

On February 7, the CWC will lead an online webinar about a Safer Internet Day Celebration.

On February 9, the CPTCSA will hold the “Roundtable discussion on developing effective services to meet the needs of boys who have been sexually abused,” another in-person and livestreamed-via-FB event.

On February 10, another LGU is at the forefront as the CPTCSA and the Provincial Social Welfare Development Office of Zamboanga del Norte will showcase the Local Council for the Protection of Children-Best Practice of Zamboanga del Norte province highlighting the municipalities of Roxas and Liloy.

At least eight government agencies and child rights advocacy organizations are all part of the month’s activities.

The CPTCSA runs Rapha Helpline (Rapha means “healing” in Hebrew) with trained counselors offering free online care and support to those in need of assistance and guidance, 8AM-5PM from Mondays to Fridays. You may reach them via Globe (M-F): 0977-6520230; Viber: Monday: 09617182654; Tuesday & Thursday: 09617182658; and Wednesday & Friday: 09617182655.

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