A research conducted by ECPAT, INTERPOL, and UNICEF in 2022 estimated that at least 2 million children in the Philippines were subjected to online sexual abuse.
With the alarming increase in the cases of online sexual abuse, especially during the time of the pandemic, the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) found the need to equip the personnel of its member-schools with the skills in Psychological First Aid (PFA).
On March 16-17, 2023, CEAP, in partnership with the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC) and the Miriam College Women and Gender Institute (WAGI), conducted the first-ever Psychological First Aid (PFA) Workshop for personnel of CEAP member-schools at the Miriam College Environmental Studies Institute Conference Room.
PFA is a way of providing emotional and practical support to those experiencing a difficult or distressing event, such as Online Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children (OSAEC). The workshop aimed to help individuals understand how to respond effectively and empathetically to children who have experienced such abuse and to promote their psychological recovery. It emphasized a compassionate and non-judgmental approach to help children feel heard and validated, eventually leading to their recovery and healing.
Thirty-five (35) school personnel from CEAP member-schools all over the Philippines – composed of guidance counselors and staff, religious education faculty, and student formation coordinators, assumed to be the front liners in addressing OSAEC, attended the said workshop.
Through the various sessions and workshops during the 2-day training, the participants were able to level off with key concepts related to online sexual abuse and exploitation of children and the extent of the problem, and the different forms of OSAEC. They were also made aware of the various laws and legal procedures surrounding OSAEC and Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials (CSAEM). They also developed skills to better understand each child survivor’s different needs and conduct appropriate assessment and response mechanisms of child sexual abuse cases.
On the morning of the first day, Dr. Mel Reyes, Executive Director of WAGI and CEAP Champion for Gender Equality, gave an eye-opener of a talk on “Global and Philippine Situationer on OSAEC” and then facilitated a workshop on OSAEC mapping. In the afternoon, Executive Director of the Miriam College Child Rights Advocacy Center and CEAP Child Protection Committee Member, Atty. Myles Gonzales-Esquivelgave a dynamic talk on “Understanding the Law: OSAEC and related laws” and facilitated a workshop on identifying the signs of OSAEC.
The team from the Ateneo de Manila Gender Hub, led by its Director, Dr. Mira Alexis P. Ofreneo, facilitated the morning session on the second day. This very rich session included talks on: 1) A Systems Approach to School-Related Gender-Based Violence (SGBV): The UN Global Guidance to Addressing; 2) A Whole-of-School Response to SGBV: The ADMU Experience; 3) Understanding the Psychological Effects of SGBV; and 4)Making Our Response to SGBV Gender-Inclusive (of SOGIE)
Capping the morning was a workshop on the “Techniques of Psychological First Aid,” where participants were presented with various scenarios they may encounter from students seeking counseling. They were then asked to apply the skills they learned during the training, observing the DOs and DONTs of PFA.
In the afternoon, the participants were divided into groups and made to prepare a concrete action plan for their respective schools or regions when they go back after the training. After each presentation, the panel of resource persons gave their comments and commendations on the plan’s merits and provided suggestions on how to improve it.
At the end of the workshop, the participants were excited to put into practice what they had learned, brimming with the hope that they would be able to help create safe spaces for the students under their care.