Last Saturday, February 10, over 120 student leaders dedicated to students’ safety against sexual predators and enablers gathered for a forum initiating a unified movement with the call “Safer Spaces Now”.
Organized by Enough Is Enough (EIE), a group of victim-survivors of sexual abuse and advocates for gender equality, gathered leaders of local student organizations, councils, campus publications, and gender groups, among others.
“The event has galvanized student-leaders in our readiness to respond to the withstanding issue of sexual abuse and harassment in our educational institutions. Cases have only continued to rise, and we have only grown more restless at the lethargic response of the DepEd and our legislators,” stated Sophie Reyes, EIE lead convenor.
Since its establishment in September of 2022, EIE has carried four major demands regarding amendments to the 2019 Safe Spaces Act, these include: 1) mandating schools to provide psychological, legal, and financial support for victim-survivors, 2) predators and enablers being charged with criminal and administrative cases, 3) revoking professional licenses and the blacklisting of campus predators, and 4) establishing a publicly-available national registry of sex offenders.
After discussions, a new demand was introduced, the standardization of an anti-retaliation policy to protect victim-survivors from both predators and enablers as they come forward.
“Five years after the passing of the Safe Spaces Act, there is still no guarantee we are safe in our own schools, let alone any guarantee the justice sought by victim-survivors who share their stories, as if the stigma they face isn’t enough,” Reyes adds. “We stand unified in taking justice into our own hands, not just for victim-survivors who have come forward, but also for those who have never received the support and encouragement to do so.”
At the time of writing, EIE reports at least 61 incidents of campus predators, noting that there are multiple cases that have either been dropped or remain unresolved, and multiple predators who have yet to face any repercussions.
“For as long as the status quo remains, where the media can continue to report cases of sexual violence and our national leaders can express their sympathy without taking any form of action, predators and enablers will remain more protected than the youth,” she concluded.
The event was graced by Raymundo Rivamonte, national president of the Parents and Teachers United Advocates Association Philippines Inc,. with invited resource persons from the Commission on Human Rights and the University of the Philippines Center for Women and Gender Studies.
The forum was co-organized with Partido Pandayan, a campus political party in Ateneo de Manila.