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Justice for Karen

/ 01:21 AM September 20, 2015

A young girl from my school died last Tuesday.

I did not have the opportunity to meet her and never will.

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Karen Kaye Montebon was in her first year of college. Young, happy, dreamy and excited for the future. They say she dreamed of helping her family, constantly reminding her parents how to efficiently allocate her father’s salary. Yet her life was cut short the day a man decided to enter the privacy of her home, in a gated community, to take her material possessions, her innocence, and her life.

She probably spent breakfast with her parents that day, where the discussion revolved around her upcoming pre-final exams and how excited she was to finally be on the last few years of her formal education. She must have kissed them goodbye and wished them a good day, assuring them that she would do her best in her exams later that day. Her parents must have told her how proud they were to have a daughter study accountancy in the University of San Carlos, a university best known for the quality of their accounting graduates. They must have looked back to see her waving goodbye as they left for work. Her father must have been so proud to have a daughter that was beginning to bloom into a lovely lady that reminded him of the love of his life. I can just imagine the lively conversations between father and mother spent just wondering how lucky they were to be Karen’s parents.

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Little did they know that would be the last time they would ever see her smile and feel the warmth of her embrace. Because on that fateful day, a man decided that a moment’s pleasure was worth a young woman’s life. She must have just stepped out of the shower and was getting herself ready for school, drying her hair, and packing her things. Reviewing her notes as she thought about the one hour and a half morning commute she was about to take. She must have contemplated whether she should take the ferry across the Mactan channel or to take the jeepney instead. Her thoughts were probably broken by the realization that it was almost eight in the morning just two hours before her 10 a.m. exam, a little more delay and she would never make it on time. She must have quickly headed for the door only to find a man standing in the way. Was he a friend or was he a stranger?

Was he excited as he waited for her parents to leave? Was he so enraged as to strangle her to death? Was he on a drug-induced state that he could no longer see beyond satisfying his insatiable desires? We will never understand what went through his mind as he held her down against her will, with his mind filled with nothing but lust. Nor will we ever be able to fathom the fear that sucked the sound out of Karen’s screams or the horror that was revealed in the tears that rolled down her face.

Today, the man who found satisfaction in her pain is the only one who saw the look of terror written across her face as he tied the cord of the hair straightener around her neck. Only he knows if she begged for her life as she struggled to breathe. He must have seen her cry and yet he pulled harder and made sure she would never live to tell who he was.

How did her parents feel when they came home only to find their daughter ravaged, strangled to death and placed under her bed? Will a father be able to forgive himself for not being there to protect his daughter during the moment she needed him the most? Did her mother shriek and her legs give up from under her when she saw the lifeless body of the child she nursed and nurtured into the beautiful young lady she had now become?

These are all questions that can only be answered by the individuals who were present that day. We could only speculate and endeavor to put ourselves in their shoes, but we will never truly understand. We will never fully know what it feels like to be helpless, alone and powerless unless we find ourselves in the same situation Karen was in; nor will we ever feel a parent’s pain in losing a child through an act of utter barbarity committed in broad daylight and inside the place she called home—a sanctuary where she felt most secure. If Karen was not safe inside the comfort of her own home in a gated community, I shudder at the thought of the predicament faced by the thousands of Filipinos who live in the streets or the hundreds of thousands more displaced by local conflicts.

As cries for justice spread throughout social media, society is grasping at straws still unable to comprehend the level of depravity that could lead to the commission of such barbarity. There are many things I do not understand and perhaps never will. I cannot understand how a man could willingly take the life of another. I will never understand how a man can derive pleasure from the pain of another or the complete lack of humanity to feel a tinge of pity as he watched Karen struggle.

What I understand is that, against men like these, no law—no matter how stiff the punishment—will serve as deterrent. Rape is not a result of culture or the sense of entitlement that a man can impose his will on a woman. We should be reminded that rape is not a crime committed against women who wear “sexy” clothes or against women who “asked for it.” It is a crime committed by a depraved man, whose lust knows no law, against a woman left helpless and alone either by circumstance or by chance.

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Rape is a manifestation of a state of mind that is beyond repair. It is a deplorable act that has no place in today’s society. It should be made clear that in no country in this world will rape, in whatever form, be tolerated. Not today, not ever.

For Karen, the young girl who lost her dreams and for her family whose grief is beyond comprehension, the perpetrator must be found quickly and justice served.

David Padin is a graduate of the University of San Carlos-Cebu.

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TAGS: cebu, crime, justice, Karen Kaye Montebon, Rape
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