World Vision: Break the silence on sexual violence against children
June 1 – Child-focused humanitarian, development and advocacy agency World Vision launches its global mobilization to Break the Silence surrounding violence against children, as part of its observance of the International Day for the Protection of Children and other global moments including the World Day against Child Labor later this month.
In the Philippines, at least 1,000 child representatives in different parts of the country are expected to participate in various fora to amplify their pressing issues concerning violence, especially the alarming prevalence of sexual violence including online sexual exploitation of children or OSEC.
“This activity is a chance for me and my fellow children to be asked on how we are doing in our community. As a child leader, this is also an opportunity for me to encourage them to speak up about the issues that affect us,” said 14-year old Emie, a child leader from West Misamis in Mindanao.
World Vision believes in the role that girls and boys play in ending violence against children. Creating a safe space for dialogues will allow them to catalyze change in their communities, influence local and national leaders and stand up for their rights,” said National Director Rommel Fuerte.
Sexual exploitation on children in the Philippines
The national baseline study on violence against children shows that 17.1% of children aged 13-18 have experienced any form of sexual violence while growing up.
“I ran away from home after my parents separated. With nowhere to go and nothing to eat, I turned to pimps for support. Every night, I would get a text message from them telling me where to go and who to serve,” shared 17-year old Diane (not her real name), one of World Vision’s assisted children in the Teaching Health and Resilience to Children through Inclusive Values and Empowerment (THRIVE) Project in Northern Mindanao. The project aims to improve resilience of children to respond and recover from abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence.
The accessibility of social media has further changed the landscape of sexual violence, with the increase of criminal cases of live stream child abuse in the Philippines to almost 300% between 2013 to 2015. Worse, even children as young as 3 months old are targeted for such abuse.
It Takes a World
World Vision’s initiatives on child protection, coupled with its recently launched advocacy campaign “It takes a world to end sexual exploitation of children” have so far made progress in terms of reporting and monitoring at least 32 child protection cases. Thanks to the establishment of functional protective systems in the communities, children affected by sexual violence, including online, are appropriately addressed.
The fight against these crimes on children doesn’t happen in isolation. Partnerships with key government agencies, community and faith-based organizations have proven effective to meet the needs of children like Diana.
The THRIVE project to date has served 5,000 children through multi-sectoral interventions while over 4,000 adult authorities and caregivers were oriented and trained on child protection. This local advocacy has also resulted to the reactivation of the barangay council for the protection of children (BCPC).
While there have been milestones on pinning sexual predators of children in the last few years, the elusive crime catches up with technology as cases of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) have been increasing.
Awareness and prevention
Prevention becomes the strategy to break the silence through effective awareness and education at the community level. In partnership with like-minded agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare Department (DWSD), Department of Justice (DOJ), the Philippine National Police (PNP), International Justice Mission (IJM), and the Inter-agency Against Trafficking (IACAT), projects such as the US J/TIP-funded Child Protection Compact (CPC) implemented by World Vision utilizes prevention trainings, after-care, reintegration programs, and engagement of children survivors as effective approaches in reducing future OSEC incidents.
“We are making progress but we will continue to be relentless in our pursuit to end sexual exploitation of children. I call on everyone to rally behind us, stir conversations and cap the silence surrounding this timely issue. We need to rally behind every child who experienced exploitation and those who could possibly be taken advantage of, by amplifying their voices,” urged Fuerte.
World Vision is a global Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.