MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES – A cycle of violence was broken with a single text message last week in Manila: Rubilyn* got a text from her 16-year-old sister asking for help. She said their stepfather was abusing her—just like he had done to Rubilyn years before.
The violence began when Rubilyn was about 10 years old. For several years Rubilyn stayed silent, enduring the horrible sexual assaults on her own and burying feelings of guilt and shame. When she finally mustered the courage to tell the truth, her stepfather denied the abuse and her mother could not believe it. Rubilyn moved out of the house and into a private aftercare shelter for victims of sexual violence. Now 18, she is living on her own and working at a restaurant.
As soon as Rubilyn heard from her little sister, she called the aftercare home where she had gotten help when she desperately needed it herself. The home called a government agency, who in turn called IJM. Working with Rubilyn, a team of government social workers and IJM staff staged an intervention at the school where the siblings attended. Their mother met the rescue team and her children back at the government office.
Rubilyn’s 16-year-old sister bravely answered questions about the abuse she had been enduring by her stepfather. The story sounded all too close to Rubilyn’s. This time, their mother believed and started to lament the pain and broken trust in her family.
All of the children, including two younger sisters and a brother, plus a 16-year-old cousin, are still staying at the aftercare shelter. They will continue to get crisis counselling and medical care, and IJM social workers will help make a long-term plan to ensure they stay safe and get the care they need. Police are moving forward with an arrest warrant, and IJM plans to support the legal case as it develops.