[OPINION | DASH of SAS] To prevent rape, understand consent

Their public service announcement on “rape prevention tips” had many netizens triggered. 

The tips were called out for being tone deaf and outdated in this #MeToo era. It reinforced victim-blaming and put the onus of rape prevention solely in the hands of women. 

Versions of “What were they thinking?” reverberated with every social media share, meme, and thought piece. 

“It was well-intentioned,” Philippine National Police spokesperson Benigno Durana Jr told me in a phone interview, but he admitted that it was not very “well-thought out or researched.” 

“It was an unfortunate fluke,” said Durana. 

I have had both professional and personal encounters with the Women’s Desk and the Aleng Pulis Hotline. The female officers who assisted me listened without judgement or prejudice and offered advice about possible courses of action. They were professional yet caring and sensitive.

I believe that the Angono police meant well – but it does not take away the fact that they missed the mark on being gender-sensitive and responsive to the realities of living in 21st-century Philippines. (Try telling a call center agent who lives in a more remote part of town to go home at a decent hour and avoid walking alone in a dimly lit street. Yeah, good luck.)

In a previously released statement, the PNP acknowledged Senator Risa Hontiveros’ concerns about the Angono Police public service announcement. "We agree with the good senator that the guidelines on rape prevention need to be updated with due consideration to gender sensitivity issues,” read the statement.

During my conversation with Durana, he echoed the same and asked for the public’s understanding. He said that the PNP is taking this as a learning opportunity for the institution to further strengthen their gender sensitivity training and remind themselves to apply it across all points where they interact with clients.  

Reframing the discussion 

This is also a learning opportunity for all of us to stop and think about our own misconceptions about rape. What the Angono Police put out on social media are sentiments we hear all the time – from well-meaning relatives and parents to unapologetic victim-blaming TV hosts like Anthony Taberna, Joey de Leon, and Tito Sotto.

Let’s take this as an opportunity to think about how ingrained rape culture is in our society and reframe the discussion. Beyond getting angry, let’s point out why "tips" like don’t wear or drink this or that or don’t walk alone do not prevent rape.  

1. Rape is not only perpetrated by scraggly dangerous thugs who jump you from behind in a dark alley.  

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVR) the 3 most common perpetrators of sexual violence are acquaintances, family members, or trusted individuals. 

In this investigative piece, “Rape Within the Family,” Rappler reporter Natashya Gutierrez exposes the painful reality of incest and its prevalence in the Philippines.  

 

2. Though most rape survivors are women, rape does not only happen to women.

Gender advocate Alvin Dakis shared stories with me of men who experienced being raped but chose to stay silent because they did not know where to complain and what laws would protect them. Some men were in same sex relationships, some were involved in heterosexual relationships. 

 

3. We need to extend the conversation beyond DO NOT RAPE.

Rape prevention starts with understanding consent – what constitutes consent and how it needs to be given and expressed rather than simply assumed.

 

Consent: What is it?

The NSVR defines consent as expressed permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. 

The University of California Riverside, responding to the prevalence of sexual assault in universities in the United States, came out with an article that outlines 3 mandatories of consent: it must be informed, voluntary, and revocable

Informed: Consent is an affirmative, clear, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity. Each party understands what they are getting into and fully agrees to it.

Voluntary: Consent must be given without coercion, force, threats, or intimidation. 

We’ve all heard that “No means no.” It is not code for playing hard to get. It is the red light to stop. That is true, but there is also something to be said about what is communicated by your partner’s hesitation and discomfort – the things that aren’t always verbalized.

Dating and intimate relations are complex and nuanced by circumstance, timing, and mood. Slow down and check in with an “Are you still okay with this?” or something similar when you sense that something is bothering your partner. 

Revocable: Consent to some form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Consent to sexual activity on one occasion is not consent to engage in sexual activity on another occasion. A current or previous dating or sexual relationship, by itself, is not sufficient to constitute consent. Even in the context of a relationship, there must be mutual consent to engage in sexual activity.

Consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter and can be revoked at any time. Once consent is withdrawn, the sexual activity must stop immediately.Consent cannot be given when a person in incapacitated – mentally, physically or, in some cases, simply drunk.

Consent can be given and taken back at any point in time. It isn’t all-access pass. 

Lualhati Bautista sums this up quite well in her Facebook post when she said: "Hindi porke makikipagkita sa 'yo ang ka-chat mo ay gusto na niyang makipag-sex sa 'yo. Hindi mo pa siya kakilala. H’wag kang assuming. (Just because your chatmate agreed to meet up with you, it does not mean she wants to have sex with you. You don’t even know her yet. Don’t be presumptuous.)

Rather, we should all come out of this "unfortunate fluke" more conscious about our rights and more open to engaging protection agencies like the PNP Women’s Desk in giving our constructive feedback.

Durana assured me that the PNP is open to receiving feedback so that they can serve the public better. He also encouraged the public to file a complaint against officers who do not act in a gender-sensitive and professional manner for proper disciplinary action, but made one request: “I only ask for empathy from the public when giving their feedback. Let’s not complain to take down an institution or person or just for the sake of complaining.” – Rappler.com 

For feedback and complaints, text PNP at 0917-847-5757.

For questions about how to report a women-related crime and what your rights are, call the Aleng Pulis Hotline at 0919-777-7377.