Relocation of abuse care center in Passi City pushed

(From left) Monica Prieto-Teodoro, Special Envoy of the President to the UNICEF; Governor Arthur Defensor Jr., and Laurence Ligier, founder of the CAMELEON Association.

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

The country’s special envoy to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Monica Prieto-Teodoro, has called for the relocation of the CAMELEON Association Inc. care center in Brgy. Sablogon, Passi City, to protect the well-being of its residents.

“These young girls are the future, and we must protect the interests of these children. The care center’s proximity to the jail, where the perpetrators are incarcerated, causes the girls to relive the trauma of rape and abuse every time they see these individuals,” Prieto-Teodoro said.

“Hopefully, the relocation will happen sooner rather than later to help the girls,” she added during her visit to the care center in Passi City on Monday, which coincided with a courtesy visit to Governor Arthur Defensor Jr.

Laurence Ligier, founder of the CAMELEON Association, highlighted the disturbing environment at the center, situated only 50 meters from the Passi City District Jail.

” The girls can hear, can see their own mothers going to jail to see their husbands because most of them are incest cases. So it’s very traumatizing for them if they have flashbacks,” Ligier said.

Ligier hopes for a resolution soon, emphasizing that the mission of CAMELEON is to help these girls heal from the scars of sexual abuse.

In response, Defensor mentioned discussions with Passi City’s local government about relocating the jail.

“We will consult with the mayor about an alternative location for our jail to avoid direct proximity to the institution. The province is ready to assist and can provide the necessary building for the jail’s relocation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Defensor noted that interim measures, such as erecting a barrier between the two facilities, will be implemented by the provincial government.

Prieto-Teodoro also committed to supporting the provincial government’s programs targeting child welfare, noting the pervasive nature of sexual abuse.

“Sexual abuse affects anyone and everyone; every family has a story about abuse, which is why it must be stopped,” she emphasized.

She also highlighted the significant increase in online sexual abuse in the country, which surged 300 percent from an already high 257 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the ‘lucrative’ nature of online sexual exploitation.

“The perpetrators are often family members who exploit the children for financial gain,” Prieto-Teodoro remarked.

Prieto-Teodoro emphasized that in helping children and young people who have been sexually abused, the society has to have comprehensive care to address the psychological and behavioral aftermath of abuse.

Established in 1997, the care center of the CAMELEON Association Inc. care center in Passi City offers a comprehensive rehabilitation program to survivors of sexual abuse who are aged 5-17.

At the center, the survivors receive personalized reconstruction support to aid their recovery and promote independence. Upon completion, survivors are reintegrated into their families and communities if deemed safe; otherwise, alternative arrangements such as foster care or independent living are arranged.

“Some girls have recovered from these traumas. We can work all together for this because this is a difficult task, but these girls have become change themselves and advocates. We can see that we can stop the cycle of violence at their level if they are well taken care of,” said Ligier.

In a November report last year, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) of the Department of Justice in Western Visayas reported at least 149 human trafficking cases have been filed in various courts across Western Visayas since 2003.

Of the human trafficking cases, 67 are cases of prostitution, and 32 are sexual exploitation.

Reported figures showed that Iloilo City has recorded 14 cases of prostitution while Iloilo province logged 11 cases of sexual exploitation.

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