The HEU Office of Student Affairs (OSA), in partnership with the Women and Gender Institute (WAGI) held a webinar entitled: “Bawal Ang Bastos: A Semi-Structured Conversation on Understanding and Changing Rape Culture in the Philippines” last November 9, 2020 at 1:30 PM. The webinar was attended mostly by students from the HEU.
Dr. Clarissa Ligon, OSA’s Student Affairs Officer, formally opened the webinar by recalling how the #MeToo movement came alive in the Philippines, and emphasizing the timeliness and importance of discussions of rape culture, especially within schools and universities. Dr. Tesa de Vela, the Executive Director of WAGI also welcomed the students and took the opportunity to emphasize that the term “rape culture” is now widely used by the youth in recognition of a bigger systemic problem.
“The popular use of the term rape culture among the youth tells us that young people today have a stronger sense that the problem is systemic. That there exists a culture of violence, particularly against women and girls, but not exclusively.”
- Dr. Tesa de Vela
Ms. Danica Gonzalez, WAGI’s Young Women’s Leadership Program Coordinator, facilitated the webinar. She first emphasized the alarming prevalence of sexual and physical violence in the Philippines. Ms. Gonzalez then defined rape culture and its manifestations beginnimg with attitudes and beliefs that reinforce a culture of violence, including biological determinism, victim-blaming, him-pathy, and machismo. She also discussed verbal expressions, removal of autonomy, and explicit violence.
Ms. Gonzalez also showed students what to say and do when someone confides in them with their experience of sexual harassment. She urged everyone to believe the survivor, be reassuring, remain calm, handle situations with discretion, encourage seeking medical attention or reporting the experience, and be sensitive and kind.
As part of the program, students practiced what they would say when faced with manifestations of rape culture by presenting scenarios and gathering their would-be responses. Students answered with strong statements, calling out the harasser, ending their relationship with harassers, and reporting sexual violations.
Ms. Mirma Tica-Ortiz, the Associate Dean for Student Affairs then opened the space for further questions. One student asked how to respond to relatives and colleagues making sexist or homophobic remarks. Dr. De Vela and Ms. Gonzalez mutually emphasized the importance of speaking out upon gauging or weighing the situation and its risks.