December 30, 2021 — Recognizing the different forms of abuse and knowing where and how to seek help and support is crucial in keeping children safe.
The UP Manila Center for Gender and Women Studies (CGWS) and Ugnayan ng Pahinungod Manila, in collaboration with the Kaibigan Ermita Outreach Foundation, Inc. conducted a forum entitled “Proteksyon ng Bata Laban sa Abuso” on Dec. 9 as part of the 18-day Campaign to End Violence Against Women and Children.
The first speaker, Dr. Marianne Joy Naria-Martina, PGH Child Protection Unit Consultant and TeleCPU Project Officer showed data on increased Violence against Children (VAC) and Violence against Women (VAW) during the implementation of lockdowns in the country. She defined child abuse as an act of maltreatment, habitual or not, of the child. Child abuses consist of domestic violence, negligence, child sexual abuse, sexual abuse of an adult, physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, exploitation, and online abuse/exploitation.
What to do next
Dr. Naria-Martina highlighted that the first and most important thing to do is to make sure that the child is safe, then bring the child to the nearest barangay Violence Against Women and their Children (VAWC) or Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC) desk or call the Child helpline or emergency hotline for emergency cases.
She introduced the PGH CPU and showed the processes in availing of its services that involve interview with the guardian and child, medicolegal examination, post-evaluation debriefing, and management (diagnostics, medications, and referral to other services). She also presented its recent project, the TeleCPU Centers sa Barangay that utilizes telemedicine and teleconsultation to enable delivery and access to health care and child protection services despite the challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, disasters, and others.
The next speaker, Ms. Annaliza Macababbad, PGH CPU Social Worker, discussed the proper ways of handling disclosures of abuse and how to properly respond when a child who disclosed an abuse is scared and not comfortable.
She stated that during the disclosure, it is important to give the children or young persons full attention, to remain calm and tell them that they did the right thing in letting their parents/ guardians know. Reassure them that they are not to be blamed and let them know what the next action is. She further explained that children may not disclose everything at once as they also tend to forget some unfortunate things that happened to them.
She advised to let children take their time and to use their own words when confirming their statement. She also warned not to make promises that cannot be kept and avoid saying that “everything will be fine now.” She stressed not to confront the perpetrator, interrogate the child, and investigate the abuse for these tasks should be done by authorities and trained professionals.
If there is a suspicion that a child has been abused, Ms. Macababbad urge carers to give the children extra attention, ask if they have a problem, and assure them of help. She added that anytime and anyone who has a reason to suspect that abuse is happening is already a reason to report, which is a request for assessment of the condition of the child. Proving abuse has happened is not necessary prior to reporting.
She mentioned that there is immunity for reporting child abuse based on RA 7610 Section 7. She ended her talk by showing the facilities and activities of the CPU.
Handling Crimes Against Children
The last speaker, Patrolwoman Jemina Joyce G. Daquioag, Women and Children Protection Center Anti-Violence against Women and Children Division and PGH-CPU Investigator, discussed the legislative framework, role of law enforcers in handling child abuse, and the investigation of complaints. She identified children as persons below 18 years of age. She explained that abuse can be reported at the PNP-Women and Children Protection Center through the local WCPDs, DSWD, or other local government social welfare and department, or through the barangay by the following: the victims themselves, parents or guardians, relatives within third degree of consanguinity, social workers of DSWD and accredited NGOs, police offices, local education agencies, barangay chairpersons, teachers or school administrators, or at least three concerned and responsible citizens of the locality where the violation occurred. She also stressed that child abuse MUST be reported by involved medical personnel and government workers.
On the investigation of complaints, Patrolwoman Daquioag explained that they offer assistance and receive reports from the complainant or referral from other offices and agencies. They conduct initial interviews and take sworn statements or judicial affidavits, record the incident in the pink blotter, and aid in referring the victim to PNP crime laboratory or government hospital for medicolegal examination and treatment if necessary. They also refer the victim to DSWD/NCMH/CPU/NGOs for psychological assessment and intervention, and prepare a case folder for submission to the Prosecutor’s office/DOJ and present the victim before the Prosecutor’s office.
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