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Not easy to teach or talk about

Since 1995, the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA), a nonprofit, nongovernment institution has been working toward a safe world for children free from sexual abuse and exploitation. Expatriate social worker Lois J. Engelbrecht and current executive director Zenaida Rosales established it to respond to the gap in services to victims and to develop strategies for prevention. Its services include treatment through individual, group and family counseling, prevention through school and Sunday School lesson plans, training, and development of a wide array of advocacy materials. The CPTCSA is accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the latter for tax-deductible donations.

It has partnered with stakeholders like the Department of Education, which has mandated a program on personal safety to teach children, teachers, school community about child protection. But knowing how teachers often complain of a curriculum burdened with too many issues and too much content, it is timely to review this program especially now that it is undergoing a major overhaul. The observation that with an ambitious curriculum, teachers try to teach so much and end up not teaching the basic skills well cannot be ignored.

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A recent positive development is this announcement in August: “To equip and empower learners in making informed choices and decisions on issues that affect their personal safety and wellbeing, the Department of Education integrates and ensures an age-appropriate, developmental, and culture-sensitive sexuality education for learners in the K to 12 Basic Education Curriculum.”

The CPTCSA was cited by Eugene Y. Evasco in his essay on the history of Philippine children’s literature (“Ang Panitikang Pambata sa Filipinas: 2000-2013, Bumasa at Lumaya 2” coedited by Almario, Sta. Romana Cruz, Sunico, Anvil Publishing, 2016) where he mentions five children’s books that deal with child sexual abuse. Three of the five are the CPTCSA’s “Hoy bata! Mahalaga ka! Sina Biboy at Nina para sa patakaran ng ligtas na paghawak” (2006), “Ang aking aklat para sa pansariling kaligtasan” (2003), and “Erika and Jay Learn the Touching Rules” (2005).

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The CPTCSA’s years of field work and research have yielded the following reasons children are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse:

Children may not even have the vocabulary to express or describe what they may have experienced because the grownups around them are afraid to discuss sex with them.

They are told to obey and respect parents and adults at all times, which leave them in a dilemma when unpleasant conditions prevail.

They are not allowed to express their own feelings, being constantly reminded not to cry, not to be afraid, and not to be angry, thus removing what may be manifestations of their inner conflicts.

Sexual abuse is a topic not openly discussed because of the stigma of shame, especially when family members are involved.

These provide the context for the “CPTCSA Guide for My Personal Safety Workbook” intended for children 8-10 years old. Among the basic information children need are the touching rules and boundaries. While children need the “nurturing touch,” they have to be taught to distinguish what gestures are inappropriate. According to Dr. Rosalie B. Masilang, DepEd adolescent reproductive health focal person and supervising education program specialist, as early as Grade 1, students are taught about “good touch” and “bad touch,” which helps them “avoid becoming victims  of other people’s unwanted behaviors.”

Talking about child sexual abuse with children may be difficult and terrifying for adults. But silence on the topic could mean more frightening prospects regarding children’s safety. They need to be equipped with personal safety skills.  The workbook serves as a reminder that it is not strangers who pose danger all the time; often, it is adult family members, who are not strangers to children, who inflict sexual abuse.  Older children should also be advised that they are protected by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Philippine Penal Code.

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Next month, there will be an opportunity for teachers and community workers to be trained in the subject of personal safety and sexual abuse. A special daylong workshop on “Proactive Strategies to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Child Pornography Offenses” by Dr. Klaus Beier, of The German Dunkelfeld Project is scheduled on Oct. 11 at Sequoia Hotel, Mother Ignacia corner Timog Streets, in Quezon City. The Dunkelfeld Project in Berlin has achieved success in its work to prevent disturbed adults from actualizing inappropriate sexual desires. Much of its success is by working with the media. Beier is coming to Manila upon the invitation of the CPTCSA.

The workshop agenda includes the presentation of original research, grassroots experience and policy issues from a multidisciplinary lens that includes the Department of Health, the Department of Justice, the Philippine National Police, psychiatrists, medical doctors, social workers, psychologists, and lawyers, among others.

Admission is open to the public and free of charge. Members of the media are invited to attend. For inquiries on the workshop and CPTCSA programs, contact 426-7839  or [email protected]

Neni Sta. Romana Cruz ([email protected]) is chair of the National Book Development Board and a member of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse, children, children’s literature, exploitation, sexual abuse
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