Flight attendant Christine Dacera was beautiful, sexy and was on a night out with friends. Her appearance was not a bait for rapists, women advocates said.
Social media was outraged over the death of the 23-year-old, which exposed a culture of blaming women for being victims of rape and other forms of gender-based violence. Police already dubbed the incident a "rape-slay" case but some of Dacera's last companions who became persons of interest denied such claim.
In all cases of sexual abuse, it is never the victim's fault, said concerned groups online that came to Dacera's defense. If the assault did happen, it's not about her choice of clothes, how she was under the influence of alcohol, nor was it about being the only female person in the room.
"Rape victims are young and old, rich and poor, short and tall. People can be raped regardless of their physical attributes such as the color of their skin, body size, facial features, or hair style," the Philippine Commision on Women said.
What is rape culture?
Manifestations of rape culture exist in a spectrum—from microaggressions like victim blaming, rape jokes, and sexist sentiments all the way to violent ones like rape and murder. More often than not, it's women who are usually victims.
"Violence against women (VAW), including rape, is deeply rooted in patriarchal beliefs and unequal treatment of women in our society," the Commission of Human Rights said in a Facebook post. They depicted the rape culture pyramid in a graphic illustration that showed how the simplest forms of VAW can result to the most extreme acts, so long as it's tolerated.
"Women are raped because their bodies are viewed as sexual conquests and objects, that can be owned and abused by men – a mindset which stems from the unequal power relations between men and women," said the country's women's rights bureau, PCW.
EXPLAINERS ON WOMEN:
Legacies of three centuries of Spanish colonization exist in Philippine society to this day, gender role imperatives included. Machismo qualities like male dominance, and emphasis on male virility and sexual conquests still co-exist with marianismo traits such as female submissiveness and sexual purity, psychologist Kevin Nadal noted in their book.
The Philippines has had a good run in the Global Gender Gap index for so many years, but it dropped eight notches to 16th place in 2019. Among many factors cited, pay inequality and society's view that pregnancy out of wedlock is shameful.
In July 2020, a Quezon province-based police station's Facebook post went viral and triggered a movement among women. It read, “And for you girls, don’t wear skimpy clothes because if you are harassed, you would be seeking our assistance.Think about it!” This was a form of victim blaming.
In the U.S., where the #MeTooMovement started a modern-day reckoning against sexual abuse, a study noted that the effort to silence women is critical to rape culture. It's done "not only to isolate women, to humiliate them, to individualize them, to prevent them talking or sharing information and their experiences, but, above all, to stop them talking publicly", ultimately crushing their experience to oblivion.
Can rape culture be eliminated?
"At the end of the day, the best way to counter a culture is to create a new one," Alex Castro, lawyer and founder of Youth Against Sexual Harassment (YASH), told reportr. Education is the most powerful tool to correct sexism and violence against women, she said.
Law and policy changes are also important, analysts said. After decades of lobbying by child's rights activists, lawmakers approved in October a bill to raise the age of sexual consent to 16 years old from 12. It will effectively change the threshold for determining statutory rape in the country.
"As long as there are people and institutions that trivialize rape, normalize sexual violence, embolden perpetrators, and put the blame on women, rape culture will continue to persist," PCW said.
"We call on all citizens to act and do their part in putting an end to rape and rape culture by taking it seriously, speaking up against abuse and holding perpetrators accountable. Teach both girls and boys the value of mutual respect and dignity," the agency said.
The Commission on Human Rights Rights called for the protection of women, in relation to what happened to Christine Dacera.
"As one of the sectors who most experience abuse, the government must ensure that greater protection be accorded to women. In this regard, CHR stands for the protection of women in all fronts of life and echoes the call for justice for Christine Angelica Dacera," they said.
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