Anchor: Tina Monzon-Palma
To most people, a home is believed to be a place free from violence, discrimination and injustice. It should always be the safest place for a child to live in, protecting them from the evils of the world outside. However, millions of innocent children are actually being violated right in their own homes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 40 million children below the age of 15 are subjected to child abuse each year worldwide.
Violence and neglect cause serious traumas to children even as they age. Child abuse, especially when committed by the parents and guardians themselves, is a crime no reason could ever justify.
It is more than just about bruises and physical pains. While physical abuse is more evident, emotional abuse leaves a greater wound that takes more time to heal. Thus, learning about the different types of abuse, as well as knowing how to extend help, may truly save a child’s life. Without a doubt, children who receive help early on have greater chances of rising above to heal.
Bantay Bata 163 started as a hotline for abused children in 1997. It did not take long when it transitioned into a rescue center that saves children from all kinds of abuse, even under their parents’ hands. Since then, they have been receiving more than 1,400 calls everyday.
Tina Monzon-Palma is an active volunteer of Bantay Bata. She has been closely monitoring cases she personally witnessed and covered as a journalist. Thus far, she continues to contribute her service to Bantay Bata 163 in order to help children transcend their trauma, live better lives, and to pursue their dreams.
Melody is only three years old. She was physically abused by her stepfather by hitting her face with a broom (walis tingting) and burning her body with cigarettes. Because of her age, she could barely speak, let alone ask for help. An anonymous concerned citizen called the hotline. Bantay Bata rescued Melody this April, keeping her under protective custody as her mother receives counselling and files a case against her stepfather.
Maricel, the supervising social worker assigned on her case said that check-ups and CT scan are needed as well as therapy for the mother. Bantay Bata checks the condition of the mother to ensure her capability of bringing up her child. If she could not, asking their relatives for assistance will become an option. As of the moment, Melody will be taken to Children’s Village, a shelter for abandoned and abused children which takes care of almost 60 of them at present.
Chona was eight years old when she was rescued in 2006. She was badly beaten up by her own mother Ellen, believing that it was the proper way of correcting her from her mistakes. After interviewing Ellen, Bantay Bata discovered that her heavy hand was brought about by hunger.
There are days when they could not afford to bring food on the table. Ellen works as a laundry lady once a week while her husband, a pedicab driver, does not earn well. Brining home 30 pesos is already a luxury for the family because most of the time, they are left with nothing. Oftentimes, Ellen takes out her anxiety about their situation to Chona.
Irene was a shy but intelligent fifth grader then. Her father was a quick-tempered drug addict who used to beat her up for no serious reason. He was said to have resorted to drugs when Irene’s mother abandoned them. She recalls one incident where she thought her father was ‘high’, causing him to hurt her. She tried to explain, but her father would not listen. He could not understand her. She kept her problems even from her friends and teachers but they eventually realized she had a serious family issue.
At that time, her elementary school adviser could no longer contain her worry and called the Bantay Bata hotline. She knew Irene would refuse to speak up so she sought for help. When Irene got to know Eve, one of the many social workers of Bantay Bata, she disclosed that she was molested by her father’s friend when they transitorily lived at his house. While she was not raped, child molestation is still a part of sexual abuse. Her father did not know about it and she was too scared to tell him then. She knew her revelation would bring trouble. With the service of Bantay Bata, Irene’s nightmare came to an end.
Jesse was abandoned by his parents when he was born. Instead of his relatives, he was adopted by a complete stranger. Lamentably, Jesse was not treated like a child to be taken care of. He was shoved in a box like a dog. When Bantay Bata found Jesse at age five, he could not walk. Jesse was taken into a specialist and discovered that other than his physical disability as a child, he was also suffering from developmental delays, which has been caused by abuse and neglect.
Bantay Bata did its utmost best to locate Jesse’s parents by placing ads in newspapers, television and radio but did not find them. No one came for Jesse—not even his relatives. He continues to stay at Children’s Village. They are given proper nutrition, education, care and love every child needs. Jesse is now twenty years old.
Melody, Chona, Irene and Jesse are only a few of the numerous children rescued by Bantay Bata. While Melody’s case is relatively new, the others are already in better conditions and environments. Chona has reconciled and reunited with her mother; Irene’s father has stopped taking drugs, focusing on taking care of her as well as enthusiastically participating in Bantay Bata activities. For Jesse, even when he has not been back to his real family, he is in great health and has developed his speaking and cognitive skills.
According to studies conducted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), there are 4,679 cases of maltreated children from year 2010 to 2011. Reported provincial cases reached to 222 while there are 1,404 in Metro Manila. Rape cases among children accumulated to 707 from 10-14 years old.
In order to shelter children from any kind of abuse, a Republic Act has been carried out to provide sanctions and to deliver programs for prevention and deterrence of child abuse, exploitation and discrimination.
Republic Act 7610 is the Special Protection of Children against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act. In the said law, child abuse covers physical violence, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, neglect, child trafficking, child labour and discrimination due to physical disability on persons 18 years old and below.
Child psychologists say that counselling both child and parent/s is an essential step like what had transpired between mother-daughter, Ellen and Chona. Intervention is also said to be important. Bantay Bata 163 does not only serve as a hotline; it serves as a third party mediator between the parent (who committed the offense) and the child (the victim). The whole process takes time but the healing process will eventually take place once forgiveness is sincerely asked. Experts confirm that it is a crucial part of restoring both physical and emotional health of the child. April 7, 2011
Photos courtesy of Christine Chu