Monday, April 24, 2006

Date rape drugs

You may have heard stories of women who go out for a date or to a party and pass out after a drink, only to wake up in a strange place, experiencing pain as a result of sexual assault that happened when they were unconscious.

While you may hear about this in movies or fiction stories, incidents like this really take place and are known as drug-facilitated sexual assault. The drugs used by the offenders are simply described as "date rape drugs."

Three kinds of date rape drugs have been identified by the National Women's Health Information Center (NWHIC) of the US Department of Health and Human Services. These are GHB, ketamine hydrochloride and rohypnol. GHB or gamma hydroxy butiric acid comes in the form of odorless and colorless liquid, or white powder, or a pill. Rohypnol, a pill, turns blue or white when mixed with liquid. Ketamine comes in the form of white powder. Alcohol is also considered as a date rape drug since it puts the victim at risk of sexual assault when taken in an amount that affects judgment. Sometimes, alcohol is mixed with the other drugs.

When taken in, these drugs have immediate effect, which explains why offenders prefer to use these.

GHB, made legal in the US to treat sleep problems, has these effects: relaxation, drowsiness, cannot recall what happened, blacking out, problems with vision, problems with breathing, sweating, tremors, seizures, vomiting, coma and death.

Rohypnol, which is not legal in the US, is used in some countries to treat sleep problems and for anesthesia during surgery. It relaxes the muscles, victim cannot remember what happened when drugged, lowers the blood pressure, dizziness, confusion, sleepiness and difficulty with motor movements.

Ketamine, used in the US as anesthesia mostly for animals, causes numbness, hallucinations, loss of time and identity perception, out of body experiences, impaired motor function, and dream-like feeling.

To protect yourself, NWHIC says: don't accept drinks from people you don't know, don't share drinks, open containers yourself, don't drink from punch bowls or large open containers, keep your drink with you at all times even when you go to the bathroom.

Those who feel they may have ingested drinks with any of these drugs should go to the doctor immediately for tests, go for counseling, and report to the authorities.

(First published in THE SUN Hong Kong, May 2006 main edition)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Sexual harassment

By Chato Olivas-Gallo

In this article, I would like to discuss two matters. First, I would like to share basic information about sexual harassment in the workplace. Second, I would like to provide women with practical tips on seeking redress.

WHAT IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE?

Sexual harassment is committed in one of three ways:

1) The offender makes an unwelcome sexual advance towards the offended;
2) The offender makes an unwelcome request for sexual favor; or
3) The offender engages in other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.

In any of these situations, the surrounding circumstances are such that a reasonable person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated.

I believe that women who serve as domestic helpers on Hong Kong or other countries suffer from sexual harassment in greater percentages than reported. I served as legal counsel of a Philippine NGO for more than ten years. This NGO has a center that provides counseling to women who are victims of violence and abuse.

One of the more common settings for abuse is the household, and there were cases when domestic helpers were abused by their male employers. The household setting makes the victims more prone to abuse, and the existence of the employer-employee relationship makes the victim afraid to speak out, except when the abuse becomes unbearable.

If this happens in the Philippines, then it happens in Hong Kong and elsewhere.

Sexual harassment is more prevalent than we would like to think, especially in Asian settings where protection of women's rights is not as advanced as in Western settings.

In the United States, much attention has been given to the issue of sexual harassment. It would be helpful for us to take a look at how it is understood and dealt with in that country.

Sexual harassment is of two kinds. One is known as "quid pro quo" harassment, or "something for something" harassment. This means sexual favors are requested or required in exchange for a job, or an employment benefit. For example, an employer may say: "I will give you a salary increase if you give in to my demands". It is important to note that the sexual advance is unwelcome, meaning that the victim did not invite it.

The other kind is known as "hostile work environment harassment." In this situation, the offender shows unwelcome conduct so severe or pervasive that the work environment becomes intimidating, hostile or offensive. Loss of job or benefit is not necessary.

To help us understand it better, here are concrete examples of sexual harassment:

1) Suggestive comments about one's appearance
2) Remarks of a sexual nature about one's clothing or body
3) Unwanted touching or other physical contact
4) Unwanted sexual jokes or comments
5) Sexual advances
6) Pornographic pictures
7) Graffiti, posters, pin-ups or magazines of a sexual nature
8) Sexually explicit statements
9) Remarks about sexual activity
10) Whistling, ogling or leering looks
11) Comments or actions based on gender, such as calling the victim derogatory names referring to body parts.

EFFECTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Sexual harassment has several effects. These may be economic, psychological or physical.

Economic effects include loss of job, need to change jobs, or even relocate to another place to live, which may be necessary to enable a victim to start anew.

With respect to psychological effects, a study by the American Psychological Association entitled "Sexual Harassment: Myths and Realities" shows that sexual harassment victims experience these reactions:

1) Depression, anxiety, shock, denial
2) Anger, fear, frustration, irritability
3) Insecurity, embarrasment, feelings of betrayal
4) Confusion, feelings of powerlessness
5) Shame, self-consciousness, low self-esteem
6) Guilt, self-blame, isolation.

Physical and psychological reactions include:

1) Headaches
2) Lethargy
3) Gastrointestical reactions
4) Weight fluctuations
5) Dermatological reactions
6) Sleep disturbances and nightmares
7) Phobias, panic reactions
8) Sexual problems.

Psychological effects could be considered injuries. Literally - wounds. These are wounds that cannot be seen by the naked eye. For that reason, these are easier to ignore. Yet, based on my experience in dealing with traumatized women, it is the kind of injury that is most difficult to heal.


PRACTICAL TIPS ON HOW WOMEN
CAN PROTECT THEMSELVES
OR HOW TO SEEK REDRESS

First of all, it is important to have a support group if sexual harassment takes place. In my experience as legal counsel of abused women, there is strength in numbers. Abused women find the courage to uphold their rights if they have a group of supportive people helping them.

Second, bear in mind that the victim has several recourses, including the option filing a case in court if and when the time comes. She must therefore preserve any evidence that may exist. Examples are: torn clothes, medico-legal reports, video footages or photographs of injuries, video footages or photographs of where the incident occurred; if any deadly weapon was used, it must be placed in the custody of the investigators.

Third, get the victim out of the critical situation. Find a place where she can stay safely.

Fourth, talk to witnesses, if any, and get their cooperation. Ask them to write a narration of the incident in their own handwriting. Have their sworn statements taken.

Fifth, the victim must write down everything she remembers up to the last detail.

Sixth, the victim must seek legal advice. It is best to find a lawyer who is sympathetic to women's rights.

Seventh, the victim must file a complaint with the police.

Eighth, the victim must maintain contact with her support group throughout the proceedings, and seek counseling for as long as necessary.

I hope this article has given sufficient basic information to help sexual harassment victims in understanding rights and remedies available to them.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Why must we fight for justice?

The playing field is not level in this world. There is injustice, great injustice in this fallen world. That is why God wants us to fight for justice. It is a struggle that all Christians must engage in. We must engage in this struggle because it is God's command. God is just, and He cannot tolerate injustice, otherwise His very own nature will be violated.


Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid [them] out of the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:2-4

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Chain letters - an internet hoax

Have you ever received a message about a little girl dying of cancer, asking you to send it to everyone you know?

What about a message that you will experience a miracle within ten days if you send it to ten people but suffer bad luck if you don’t?

How about a message about a new virus, warning you not to open an email with a certain title, telling you to pass it on to everyone you know?

If you receive an email telling you to forward it to others, chances are it is a hoax. These messages play on your sympathy or fear, a form of social engineering. It is meant to influence you to do something you would not do otherwise.

Some chain letters are developed by spammers to collect email addresses so they can send unsolicited email later on. For example, a spammer wants to send out an advertisement about a sexual enhancement product to a thousand addresses. He can collect these addresses by making a chain letter announcing that a little girl is dying of cancer, inducing the reader to pray and pass on this email to “everyone you know” including the one who sent it to you. If you pass this on to a hundred email addresses and your friends do the same, it would not take long for the spammer to harvest 1,000 addresses.

Other chain letters may not come from spammers but are made to clog the internet to make servers slow down, to waste the users’ time and network space, to see how far a letter will go, to damage someone’s reputation or harass another person.

Hoaxbusters (http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/) says a chain letter has three parts: a hook or title that catches your attention (“A little girl is dying” or “Virus alert”), a threat that something bad will happen if you ignore it, and a request (“Pass this on to everyone you know”).

One chain letter that has been passed around quite a lot is about a seven-year-old girl named Jessica Mydek (other names have been used) suffering from cancer. It has several versions, but it essentially says that for every person who receives this letter, the American Cancer Society will donate three cents for cancer research. Here’s one version cited in the website of Electronic Chain Mail (http://www.microtech.doe.gov/assist/chain_letters.html) :
Jessica Mydek is seven years old and is suffering from an acute and very rare case of cerebral carcinoma. this condition causes severe malignant brain tumors and is a terminal illness. The doctors have given her six months to live. As part of her dying wish, she wanted to start a chain letter to inform people of this condition and to send people the message to live life to the fullest and enjoy every moment, a chance that she will never have.
Furthermore, the American Cancer Society and several corporate sponsors have agreed to donate three cents toward continuing cancer research for every new person that gets forwarded this message. Please give Jessica and all cancer victims a chance. Add acs@aol.com to the list of people that you send this to so that the American Cancer Society will be able to calculate how many people have gotten this. If there are any questions, send them to the American Cancer Society at acs@aol.com.
Three cents for every person that receives this letter turns out to be a lot of money considering how many people will get this letter and how many people they, in turn, pass it on to. Please go ahead and forward it to whoever you know- it really doesn't take much to help out.

The website of the American Cancer Society denies ever endorsing this chain letter, and further states that the story of Jessica Mydek has never been substantiated. It also says that the address acs@aol.com is inactive. To check this out, visit http://www.cancer.org/ and go to “Press Room” at the foot of the home page; click on “Rumor, myths and truths” on the left margin; click on “Email hoaxes and chain mail” and you will see several hoaxes other than the Jessica Mydek story.

How do we deal with chain letters? The best way is to ignore them. If you cannot simply do this, you can verify them from several websites, including the following:

· Hoaxbusters (http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/)
· Symantec (http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html)
· Scambusters (http://www.scambusters.org/)

Monday, January 23, 2006

When do Filipino children need a travel clearance from DSWD?

by Chato Olivas

Hundreds of thousands of children are smuggled across borders for prostitution, forced labor or other forms of exploitation. This phenomenon has given birth to laws that control international travel of children.

In the Philippines, we have Republic Act 7610 (Special Protection of Children against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act) requiring unaccompanied Filipino minors to get a travel clearance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) before leaving the Philippines.
A Filipino child needs DSWD travel clearance when going abroad either alone, or with someone not his parent. He also needs it when he is leaving the Philippines for adoption purposes.

If a child is illegitimate, Philippine law gives parental custody and authority to the mother. Therefore, if he travels with his father, he needs a travel clearance.

Travel clearance is also needed when a child goes abroad with a group to compete in sports, join a cultural presentation, pilgrimage or study tour.

Application for travel clearance can be filed by the minor himself if he is from 13 to 17 years old, or by his parents, legal guardian, traveling companion or authorized representative of the parents / legal guardian. The Philippine government's website (www.gov.ph/faqs/travelclearance.asp) lists these requirements:

1. Child's birth certificate on security paper (SECPA)
2. Parents' marriage certificate, if applicable
3. Notarized affidavit of consent from parents / guardian authorizing a specific person to accompany the child in traveling abroad
4. Notarized affidavit of support of sponsor showing employment an salary, certified by the employer, if appropriate
5. Latest income tax return of sponsoring person and/parents with official confirmation receipts
6. Two passport size photos of the child
7. Photocopy of passport and visa of traveling companion.

There are special requirements for other children:

1. Immigrant minors - visa petition approval
2. Minors to study abroad - Acceptance from the school where child is to be enrolled
3. Minors to attend conference, study tours, etc - Certification from sponsoring organization
4. Minors going abroad for medical purposes - Medical certificate of child
5. Adopted minors - Certified copy of adoption decree; Clearance from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) if adoption was promulgated less than 15 days when application for clearance to travel was made.
6. Minor under legal guardianship - Certified copy of Letter of Guardianship / Court Order
7. Minor 13 years old and above traveling alone - Affidavit executed by parents or legal guardian stating that minor shall be fetched at the airport by the sponsor; Certification for unaccompanied minors from airlines.
8. Additional requirements such as baptismal certificate or school records and the like may be presented depending upon the purpose of minor's travel.
A travel clearance is effective for six months and valid for one travel only.
First published in THE SUN Newspaper, Hong Kong, February 2006 Main Edition

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Carve it on stone

(From an email sent by Milabel)


Two friends were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one slapped the other in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE.

They kept on walking until they found an oasis, and decided to take a bath. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from near drowning, he wrote on a stone: TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE.

The friend who had slapped and saved his best friend asked him, "After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?" The other replied "When someone hurts us we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it."

LEARN TO WRITE YOUR HURTS IN THE SAND AND TO CARVE YOUR BENEFITS IN STONE.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, a day to love them, but then an entire life to forget them. Do not value the THINGS you have in your life.. But value WHO you have in your life!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

May 2006 be a year of greater opportunities
to hear God's voice and experience His grace.
May there be many more warm moments with your family,
more open doors to serve others and give back out of God's blessings,
more health and peace and laughter, more victories,
and more direct experiences of God's touch.
In Jesus' name, I pray, Amen.