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TV host blames victim of gang-rape | CMFR

TV host blames victim of gang-rape

Screengrab from Inquirer.net.

JEERS TO ABS-CBN 2’s host Anthony Taberna for his sexist remarks about a gang-rape incident in Caloocan City.  In the news segment of Umagang Kay Ganda that aired Monday, February 19, Taberna blamed the 19-year old victim for meeting up with a stranger she knew online.  (“19-anyos na babae biktima ng gang-rape, matapos makipag-kita sa chat”)

On February 16, the 19-year old girl was allegedly raped in the home of one of the suspects.  Despite being heavily intoxicated, she could still make out what was happening around her. Fearing for her life, the victim called her mother. The suspects ran off when they found out that the mother was on her way to the house. Five suspects are under police custody and two remain at large.

Taberna’s comment: “Napakadaming pagkakataon na [nangyari] ‘yang eyeball-eyeball na ‘yan. At ang mas delikado, nakipag-eyeball ka na nga, nakipag-inuman ka pa… Lalo na’t  puro lalaki ang ka-inuman mo.” (Meet-ups have been happening everywhere. But meeting up and then drinking is dangerous, especially when you are a woman drinking with men.)

Taberna should have taken the cue of co-host Jeff Canoy who tried to correct him, saying that instead of reminding women to be careful, men should be reminded not to rape. Taberna replied, “Hindi, sa totoo langmadali sabihin ‘yong sa lalaki… Kapag ikaw ay babae, huwag kang papasok sa lungga ng tulisan.” (Honestly, it’s easy if you are a man. But if you are a woman, you should not enter male territory.)

With a president notorious for making jokes about rape, virgins, and shooting guerilla women in their vaginas, it is difficult to change traditional views about women as sex objects.  A deeply rooted culture of machismo makes it easy for so many to brush aside gender issues as irrelevant. The #MeToo movement currently sweeping through the US and other countries has revealed the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault despite the gains made by the women’s movement.

The role of media and media personalities has been underscored in the campaigns for women’s rights launched by the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. Media coverage of sexual violence was targeted for correction, primarily to revise the stereotypical view of blaming the woman/girl victim for not having done enough to avoid the threat or evade the attack. Taberna’s comment is the kind that accepts male sexual aggression as a norm, a throwback to a primitive past.

Netizens were quick to call out Taberna’s offensive lack of sensitivity, describing it as an act of victim blaming. Some, including women’s rights activist Jean Enriquez and editor Alma Anonas-Carpio, even called for Taberna’s immediate resignation. Umagang Kay Ganda management replied through their official Twitter page, saying they have called Taberna’s attention on the feedback.

Taberna apologized  during the February 21 episode. His statement apologized for having offended some people, saying it was never his intention to blame the victim. But he did not acknowledge that he was wrong.

Perhaps, it is time for ABS-CBN to provide training in gender awareness and sensitivity for everyone involved in news and public affairs programs.  Studies show that TV remains an influential force. Such power should be exercised with responsibility.

CMFR’s guidelines on reporting gender issues and violence against women (VAW) can be accessed here.