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According to the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) one woman or child is raped every hour in the Philippines. This is based on police records which showed that from January to October last year, there were 7,037 reported rape cases nationwide. Think about how much larger that number becomes when you include all the cases that go unreported.
Below is the transcript of my interview with “Sisa”, a rape survivor who opted not to file her case.
Question: Can you give me an overview of what happened and when?
I started to get raped when I was still a kid and it continued until before I left for college. I don’t exactly know when it started because I didn’t know that it was rape, that it was wrong. I thought it’s just something that happens to everyone. My rapist was a trusted family friend. I only started talking about it after my rapist died, which was two years ago.
Q: How old are you when you figured out what was happening?
I was around ten and I found out from TV. I was watching MMK and there’s an episode where the daughter is being raped by her father. That’s when I realized.
Q: How come it kept happening until before college?
Okay, it’s like this: I didn’t know how to tell my parents. At first I was scared that it was my fault and I’d get reprimanded. You have to understand that I was a kid then and being scolded was the scarier option for me since I didn’t actually know the severity of the issue. Later on, it was simply my decision to keep mum.
Q: Can you explain how you arrived at that decision?
There’s a lot of reasons why. First I didn’t want to file a case. I didn’t want to get talked about. For me at that time getting raped wasn’t such a big deal that I needed justice or anything like that, probably because it’s been happening for a long time that I felt numb about it. I don’t know how to explain this, but for me at that time it was more embarrassing if people would know about it, and filing a case means that people would know what happened.
Second, I didn’t want to burden my parents. As I said it wasn’t a big deal for me before and I didn’t get depressed or anything. It’s like I only started to feel pain after it’s finally over. When my rapist died I broke down and that’s when I was able to tell my parents. I was so happy that he’s dead and that was only the time that I realized how much I hated him and how much I wanted to kill him.
Third, I did it for selfish reasons. I don’t know if he did this because of his conscience, but my rapist was the one who paid for my high school and college education. So yeah, I kept quiet because I was getting something out of it. I didn’t trade sex for that, let me make that clear. Of course when I figured out what was happening I stayed away and avoided him. The few times that he was still able to touch me was when there’s an event in our house and he’d stay over and other unavoidable situations. I never wanted it, let me make that clear. I think he paid for my studies because either he felt guilty or it was his way to keep me from talking. I don’t know, I never confronted him.
Q: Did being raped affect your relationship with other people?
As I said, back then being a rape victim wasn’t much of a big deal for me. So before, it didn’t. I was fine, I have friends, had boyfriends, and I was generally the same. When my rapist died though, that’s when I started to not be okay. I got depressed for a while and it was harder for me to trust people. It was a hard transition for me because it felt like I was suddenly being forced to deal with what happened to me.
Q: How did you start to be okay?
It wasn’t easy. There was a time that I can’t stop talking about what happened. I told my close friends and they were shocked but they didn’t want to talk about it. I mean, I kind of understand. No one wants to have to deal with someone else’s emotional baggage. But at that time I felt sad and betrayed and like no one could understand me. I guess the key is finding people who would support you? I cut off my old friends and started talking to other people who genuinely cared and wanted to help me; I went to counseling, and maybe time also helped. Once I was able to emotionally deal with it, I was able to start moving on.
Q: After what happened, did you find it difficult to have romantic relationships?
A little. It was harder for me to trust people, or men, after that. My perception of sex was very negative before and it took a lot of time for me to be open to it again. I also have to have uncomfortable conversations with anyone I’m starting to date seriously and tell them about my history, so that’s not very fun. Now, I think I’m okay though.
Q: Do you have anything you want to voice out regarding this topic?
YES. People, please stop asking rape victims to step forward. Especially if you know someone, stop asking him or her to speak out, file a case, whatever. Stop pressuring them. They might have reasons not to speak out like me, or they just can’t. Rape victims are already going through a lot and if they don’t want to fight, don’t make them. They’re already fighting every single day, you have no idea how much fighting it takes to just be okay, so please stop trying to change their mind and let them be.
Don’t use any guilt-inducing or emotionally manipulative lines on us. After I told a friend what happened to me, she said “You should’ve filed a case. What if he raped someone else, that’s on you; you could’ve stopped it.” First, she’s no longer my friend. Second, I don’t know why she thought it was okay to blame it on me, to make me think that someone might’ve gotten raped because of me, because I didn’t speak out. That line almost ruined me, so please, don’t ever use that on someone.
And to rape victims out there, please hang in there. I know how difficult it is, but it gets better. I also know that pep talks are useless, but I’ll just say this: we’re rape victims now but we’ll be SURVIVORS tomorrow. Don’t give up.