WHDL - 00013215
WHDL - 00013215
There are about 750,000 predators online at any given moment of the day who are prowling the internet to gain contact with vulnerable children and to obtain an image and video materials of child pornography (UN 2017). The growing accessibility and availability of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the Philippines, along with the nation’s increasing level of poverty incidence (ADB 2019), paved the way for sexual abuse and exploitation of children to transition to the online domain and for the distribution of such images and videos to reach internationally. This growing menace in the country known as OSEC is "the production, for the purpose of online publication, or visual or audio depictions, including photos, videos, and livestreaming, of the sexual abuse or exploitation of a minor for a third party who is not in the physical presence of the victim"(IJM 2017). The problem has massively grown into a full scale when the Philippines was infamously dubbed as the “global epicenter" of live-streamed child pornography (UNICEF 2016). Attesting to this notoriety is the staggering number of cyber-tips received by organizations like IJM reaching more than 2,000 every month. Out of these reports, more than 300 children were rescued with the help of local law enforcement in the past four years. To offer the necessary care for rescued OSEC victims, Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Philippines (NCM Philippines) opened an assessment center (AC) for OSEC victims on September 8, 2018. The AC is a new component to the aftercare continuum for OSEC cases in the country. Instead of being placed in a shelter with other children who experienced different kinds of abuse and exploitation, rescued OSEC victims can be taken in the AC where they can be provided a comprehensive physical and psychological assessment. The OSEC victims in the AC are also serviced by family social workers who help determine the best reintegration path for the children—1) reunification with non-offending kin, 2) foster care, or 3) residential care. Shechem’s mission is to "provide protection, quality care and clear outcomes for children, thus ensuring them of positive opportunities in their future". Shechem Children's Home's clientele is girls and boys aged 0-17, who are victims of OSEC. Shechem also accommodates sibling groups. Clients stay in Shechem Children's Home for a period of up to 3 months, on average 8 weeks, after which they are reintegrated with their kin, they go to foster care, or they are referred to a middle-/long-term shelter (Shechem Children's Home Manual 2018). The following are the objectives of the assessment center (Shechem Children's Home Manual 2018): 1. To provide a comprehensive assessment to OSEC survivors and his/her family which will serve a basis for long term intervention (end to end intervention); 2. To provide a short term (one to three month) individualized case plan addressing all aspects of the survivors – physical, social, emotional and cognitive needs; 3. To train passionate and professional staff, team and stakeholders that will guide and journey with the children referred to our Home; 4. To contribute to the enhancement of the Care Standards to Filipino children in the shelter or institution; 5. To engage the stakeholders, mobilize them and to be engaged in the bigger movement in advocating for the rights of the vulnerable children Shechem Children's Home is the first AC established for immediate aftercare intervention for victims of OSEC in the Philippines. Such situations make this new element in the aftercare system for OSEC victims open to both promising possibilities and probable perils. To steer the AC towards the former and away from the latter, the research at hand aims to explore what is required to make Shechem Children's Home an effective AC for clients affected by OSEC.The information on Online Sexual Exploitation of Children in the Philippines is scant, but even more scarce is the information on the aftercare for rescued children. This research was commissioned to gain knowledge on what OSEC victim-survivors go through in the aftercare continuum and to identify key factors that make an assessment center effective for them. More than looking into secondary resources and statistical figures, this research gives primacy to the voice of the OSEC victim-survivors who are the true owners of these experiences and the best source of data. Service providers who walk alongside them in their aftercare journey were also vital information sources for this work. The mixed-methods design and multi-phase approach of this study involved in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with 11 OSEC victim-survivors and 21 service providers, as well as a survey, participated in by 128 service providers from all over the country. Presented below are the key findings of the research: Gaps in the distribution of services and programs for OSEC victim-survivors exist from a geographical standpoint. Iligan city is one of the nation's OSEC hotspots, but data shows that services and programs for sexually abused and exploited children are measly in Region X. There is also a gap from a gender standpoint—only three institutions that solely cater to male clients were identified from the January-June 2019 database of licensed DSWD centers and private SWDAs. The growing network of cooperation and collaboration among NGOs and FBOs in the country is the greatest strength in the aftercare for OSEC victim-survivors. Experts with various skill sets and resources partner with one another to deliver comprehensive services and programs for the children and even their families. Nevertheless, a slew of challenges were also identified— the lack of information about this 21st century menace, the complexities of the sexual grooming done to the children, the ambiguity of attachments between the children and the alleged perpetrators, the late on-set negative and abnormal behavior manifestations of the children, violations of stipulations on gender-sensitive services to rescued children, and the overwhelming economic and social costs for victim services, criminal justice services, health services, etc. are among these difficulties. Aspects unique to this study is understanding OSEC from a Filipino worldview and looking at how the Filipino culture can help shape an effective assessment center. Kapwa and loob, Filipino ethics that are also deep-seated in the moral fiber and consciousness of the OSEC victim survivors, has been identified by the research as helpful principles to leverage in the services and programs for the children. The Filipino virtues connected to these ethics such as pakikipagkapwa (being a fellow), kabutihang loob (goodwill), hiya (dignity), malasakit (care), etc. can be expounded and utilized in the intervention efforts for the children. The research also found out that the OSEC victim-survivors at some point have become the taga-salo of their families—the ones who take on the burden of providing their own needs and their families’. Apropos this finding, the concept of family is largely at the center of OSEC. On the negative side, the sexual grooming and exploitation are carried out by the children's family members or people whom they have considered to be family. On the positive side, children perceive service providers as adults who can provide them the parental and familial care and guidance they need. Last on this category of findings is the children’s idea of justice is not the Western concept of criminal justice. This study found out that more than seeing their perpetrators incarcerated, children ’s concept of katarungan (justice) is having their human dignity affirmed and having a voice, being invited to participate in things that matter to them such as their case conferences. The heart of this research is the findings on factors that make an effective assessment center from the perspective of OSEC victim -survivors and service providers. Among these factors are psychological interventions, care and guidance from center staff, activities for self -development, and adequate facilities in the center. Likewise, allowing the children to communicate with their kin while in the center also helps them become more emotionally and mentally stable. The participants also expressed that child -participation in case conferences do not only provide a more holistic case management plan but also restores the children ’s voice and agency. Finally, the research found out that an effective assessment center is one that works on increasing the individual protective factors of the children. Skills deemed significant to start developing in the OSEC victim -survivors are self -mastery skills (anger management, self -control, and emotional intelligence, positive self -concept, self -compassion, a sense of personal responsibility, being future - oriented) and relational skills (ability to form positive bonds and connections, interpersonal communication, self -efficacy in conflict situations, and problem -solving). In toto, these factors that emerged from the children ’s data, as well as the service providers’ data, are corroborated by studies and findings of experts around the globe. This research is the evidence that if they are heard, the OSEC victim -survivors can be empowered agents who have the ability to navigate us through their journey to healing and restoration.