Stepfathers

The increasing number of sexual abuse cases referred to us lately has made me analyze and reflect on the incidents presented.  Many of our colleagues involved in reaching out to these girls and women have come to the same conclusions.

A rough estimate shows that out of four cases of rape or molestation, three of the perpetrators are the stepfather of the victim/survivor and one is the father.  The other dozens of abusers would be the grandfather, uncle, brother, brother-in-law or uncle-in-law, especially if the girl has been made to stay with her aunt’s family if her parents are unable to raise her themselves.

We have no report of a legally adopted child being molested by the legal adopting father. But there are also many incidents of informal foster fathers abusing the child entrusted to them by a relative or neighbor.  In the cases of fathers abusing their own daughter, many of the mothers are overseas workers and are informed of the abuse often by other people, not by the child herself.

Besides sexual abuse – molestation, acts of lasciviousness or rape – the girls (and boys, too)  disclose physical harm, verbal and emotional abuse.  They suffer a lot due to neglect – lack of food, clothing, sleeping area, proper education opportunity, guidance and spiritual development.  Abuse could be happening for years; sometimes the mother or other members of the household know about it but are helpless with the situation, especially if the man is violent or threatening everyone within his reach.  That is why the victim/survivor does not directly disclose the abuse to her mother; often, it is to a friend/classmate, cousin, aunt or teacher.  Then, it takes quite some time again before action is done to put her in safety – and all the while the abuse continues.

Passage of the laws on rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and violence against women and children have helped to prevent further abuses and extension of necessary assistance to these girls and women. However, we know that so much more has to be done.  DSWD present statistics gathered from the police, NBI and barangay blotters, from their own regional centers, and from private agencies attending to these kinds of cases. But again, we know that thousands more go unreported  and the victims continue to languish in their situation.

I chose the title “Stepfathers” in order to emphasize that remarriage or “re-partnering” is not the solution to a failed relationship with the first husband or partner.  While many women think that she should have a “man in the house” in order to help raise the children  especially financially, in the long run, more problems crop up bigger than if she had struggled through settling the marital relationship with the help of counselors or her own family members.

With the impending bill in Congress to allow divorce in our country, I can foresee an upsurge not only of broken marriages, but also of abuses by the stepfathers.  A divorce law creates a mentality wherein a couple during courtship, have reservations in their mind that if their marriage will not work out, they can divorce and get married again.  The will to keep the relationship well is therefore not pursued at the slightest difficulty encountered.  They are always looking for a better one instead of accepting that this is it, “in sickness and in health…till death do us part.” While we admit that there are times when it is better that the couple separate for the sake of the life of the wife or the children being battered, the law on annulment or legal separation is already there to run to.  And note – legal separation means no second partner; therefore, no stepfather coming into the scene.   Is this pill too hard to swallow for those women who think that they need to have a man in their life to help with the children?  Think again.

Besides pregnancy-related problems, Pro-life office can assist you refer cases of sexual abuse to crisis centers.  Contact: 733-7027, 0919-233-7783 or life@prolife.org.ph.

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