By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
“Bitag” host Ben Tulfo sparked an online furor after he tweeted a warning to “sexy ladies” to dress up more conservatively so as not to invite the advances of sex offenders.
@bitagbentulfo tweeted on June 13 that “a rapist or a juvenile sex offender’s desire to commit a crime will always be there. All they need is an opportunity, when to commit the crime. Sexy ladies, careful with the way you dress up! You are inviting the beast.”
His tweet might have been made days ago, but women have continued discussing the issue on social media, saying that the problem lies with the sex offenders themselves and not the way they dress.
Women shared their personal experiences on social media and said that they were only wearing regular clothes such as jeans and a t-shirt when they were groped – oftentimes while crammed in UV Express and jeepneys.
“I was wearing jeans and a shirt like usual, I’m on my daily commute,” a netizen tweeted. “I was seated at the entrance of the jeepney. One passenger was getting off the jeep and proceeded to touch my thighs and gave me a dirty smile. Did I look like I asked for it?”
One girl said that she was wearing her school uniform when a sex offender took advantage of her. “I just fell asleep inside a UV express [because] of a long day at school. I [woke up because] of someone touching my breast. I froze and I didn’t know what to do. I got blamed for sleeping in. I was wearing my long dress and long-sleeved uniform. Provocative?”
Another girl in a uniform experienced the same ordeal. “I was wearing a proper uniform taking a UV express ride that I usually take,” she said. “My skirt is not ‘short’ and I’m in no way wearing ‘inviting’ clothes. But a man put his hands on my thighs multiple times during that one ride.”
One school girl shared that she experienced verbal harassment instead of a physical one. “There was an incident where I was wearing a uniform and while waiting for a UV express, a truck full of construction workers stopped in front of me and asked me if I wanted a ride. All of them just laughed so hard and left me dumbfounded,” she said.
Even when girls are just wearing P.E. jogging pants, they are not safe from the attacks of sexual offenders. “I was sitting beside a man in front of a UV express, wearing my P.E. UNIFORM (t-shirt and jogging pants)!! My bag was on my lap then I felt it sliding off then I found out that the man sitting beside me had his hand on my lap, slowly moving it on to my private part,” a girl shared.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) had earlier said that victim-blaming only promotes rape culture, and this sadly normalizes gender-based violence and puts a strain on the women who have been victimized by it.
Even Philippine law enforcement units have an erroneous perception of sexual violence. The Lucban Municipal Police Station was recently under fire for a Facebook post that insinuated rape victims are at fault for wearing provocative clothing.
The post said, “Kayo naman mga gherlsz, wag kayo magsusuot ng pagkaikli-ikling damit at pag naman nabastos ay magsusumbong din sa amin. Isipin nyo rin! (You girls, do not wear skimpy clothing. Because when you are harassed, you will turn to us. Think about it!)”
The CHR criticized the statement made by the Lucban Municipal Police Station and suggested that its policemen undergo gender sensitivity training
“Ang mga pambabastos sa kababaihan ay nangyayari dahil sa asal at ginawa ng taong bastos, hindi dahil sa kasuotan ng biktima. Mali na isisi sa biktima o sa kasuotan nito ang anumang pambabastos (Violence against women occurs because of the behavior and acts of indecent people, not because of the victim’s clothing. It is wrong to blame the victim or her clothing for any abusive behavior),” the Commission said.