When I first started researching sexual abuse in Philippine schools, I didn’t expect to find much information. But as I delved deeper, I was shocked by the sheer number of stories and reports circulating about this issue. It’s disheartening to think that our schools, which should be safe spaces for learning and growth, have become sites of sexual abuse and harassment.
Let’s take a step back and understand the root causes
The power dynamics between teachers and students are at the core of this issue, which those with malicious intent can exploit. Toxic masculinity and gender-based violence also play significant roles in perpetuating these harmful behaviors, affecting both females and males, who may experience abuse at even higher rates in some cases.
The abuse of power by educators, who are supposed to guide and nurture young learners, is particularly troubling. This abuse can start small, with verbal harassment or emotional manipulation, and as these authority figures continue to test their boundaries, it can escalate to more severe forms of abuse, including sexual assault. Students place their trust in teachers, only to have that trust shattered by the very people meant to protect them.
It’s also important to note that sexual abuse in schools is not limited to the actions of educators; it can also occur among students themselves. This may be due to the normalization of such behavior by witnessing abuse from their teachers or exposure to inappropriate media content. In fact, there have been recent stories of early teen grade-schoolers in an international school engaging in sexual activities within school premises. We must ask ourselves: What compels these young individuals to act this way, and how can we prevent such incidents from happening?
Learning institutions should never be seen as places where students can explore their sexuality inappropriately. However, the abuse of power within these institutions can occasionally result in a lack of consequences for such actions. For example, in the previously mentioned school, the students involved in inappropriate sexual behavior—clearly violating school rules—did not face sanctions or expulsion. Why did this happen? It’s because their parents leveraged their influence and power to lobby on their behalf.
This situation raises an important question: What’s the use of rules when people believe they can simply use their power to evade consequences? Instead of teaching their children valuable lessons about responsibility and accountability, these parents enable their children’s harmful behaviors. This not only undermines the authority of the school but also encourages a culture where students feel arrogant enough to engage in inappropriate activities without worrying about the consequences.
Preventing abuse before it happens
To combat this issue, schools must enforce their rules consistently and fairly, regardless of the social standing or influence of the students’ families. Parents, on the other hand, should prioritize instilling values of respect and responsibility in their children rather than shielding them from the consequences of their actions. By working together, we can create a safer and more accountable environment in our learning institutions.
This serves as a pressing call to action for the government, parents, and learning institutions to join forces in prioritizing the safety and well-being of our students. Together, let’s take decisive action to end sexual abuse in Philippine schools for good.