Abused and disavantaged children with the association Cameleon

From Oct. 21st to Nov. 3rd 2016, Bettina Castaño, Catherine Habasque et Kilian Haselbeck were in the Philippines to work through dance on the programm of personal rehabilitation with abused children.

A few words from the director of the association Cameleon:”Dancing to foster resilience in young girls affected by sexual violence”

The 10 day dance workshop (Flamenco, Hip hop, Ballet) that volunteers from “Dancers for the World” offered our girls who have survived sexual assault was a magic moment for everyone. Not only did the young girls discover new artistic and corporeal forms, but they also took pleasure in imitating the attitudes of classical dancers, proudly raising their heads during flamenco sessions and clapping their hands while shouting „Olé!“.

For girls originating from poverty and economic deprivation whose intimacy has been violated, it is of utmost importance to find pleasure in being in their bodies once again. Progressively getting in contact again with this body which has been abused, rediscovering the capacity to move and develop in space and overcoming shame through the joy of presenting oneself proudly on stage contributes to rehabilitation. The small performance on the occasion of the day of health where our girls could demonstrate their skills in front of 300 other beneficiaries of the association was a big moment of sharing and joy for all of us.

The Cameleon team observes everyday the importance of complementary interventions. Although basic care (protection, education, health) as well as psychosocial and legal assistance are very important, the youngsters also draw a lot of strength and courage from sport, playful and artistic activities like the circus, taekwondo or dancing. It is the integration of these approaches and the multitude of the supports for resilience which allows every girl to find what makes her vibrate inside and to draw upon the resources which she needs to rebuild herself and to prepare her future.”

Sabine Claudio – Director Cameleon Philippines.

Key facts

  • In the Philippines, in 2012 47,5% of Filipinos live on less than €1.52/day
  • 1/3 of the population is less than 14 years old
  • 1,5 million million children are not in school
  • 1,5 million million children live in the streets
  • 28 children are arrested and imprisoned each day

Sexual abuse of children

n the Philippines, 100 000 children are victims of sexual abuse each year.

Over 50% of the abused children are between 10 and 18 years old. Among the victims, one in four is a less than 5 years old. 98% of rape victims are women. The 33% incest rate remains equally alarming.

The majority of commercially sexually exploited children are victims of prostitution or pornography. Most of the time, it is very difficult to establish a clear picture of the situation, and even more difficult to intervene in a scenario where the bars, prostitution networks and sex tourism are run by influential politicians or individuals (both local or foreign) who are often connected to other criminal networks (drugs, arms trafficking). Cyber prostitution is more and more common in the Philippines, whether in urban or rural areas.

Young girls, primary victims of poverty and exclusion

98% of sexual abuse victims are girls.

The Philippine Council for the Welfare of Children (PCWC), in partnership with UNICEF, published a report in 2008 showing that young girls are the primary victims of sexual abuses. Victims of commercial sexual exploitation are predominantly girls aged 13 to 18, with the youngest girls prostituted by age 10. Under-age girls are the most likely to be infected by STDs and HIV/AIDS. They are also victim of illegal recruitment (especially girls from rural areas), and suffer from sexual discrimination: lack of schooling, labor, prostitution etc.

Year after year, these trends remain unchanged, and the situation has even deteriorated. It is directly linked to a culture of discrimination towards girls and women in Filipino society and a lack of services and equipment to take care of (pre)adolescents, especially girls living in the streets and victims of abuse.

A few key facts to understand

Statistics represent merely the tip of the iceberg, since they are only based on cases reported to the police or other relevant authorities, and not on the actual number of cases. The big challenge lies with all of these non-reported cases that raise the numbers to even more worrying levels. The silence of the victims is intrinsic to the Filipino culture, as it is shameful to report incidents that would “tarnish” the family’s reputation. This is particularly the case regarding incest.

Children’s vulnerability can be explained by factors such as poverty, the influence of alcohol or drugs, gender inequality, the parents look upon their children (they can be considered as property, without opinions, rights or freedom), and the lack of education (especially sexual education). Extreme poverty often causes tensions between family members who – often themselves victims of abuse in their past – trivialize sexual abuse on children in the household. The influence of alcohol and drugs – cited in one out of four cases – is another major contributing factor in domestic violence.

In most cases, the perpetrators of rape are the Filipino children’s fathers or uncles. These men, generally between the ages of 30 and 40, typically do not have regular jobs. Most of the reported cases of incest took place at home when the victim was alone with the perpetrator.

Despite their significant responsibilities in the household, Filipino women generally have little decision-making power. Men are considered the dominant sex, holding the power in the household – and this in turn exacerbating gender inequality. While many mothers take on a submissive and dependent role, girls are more vulnerable to and often victims of abuse. In Filipino culture, family morals remain private and children are expected to keep quiet rather than report crimes that could cause scandal or emotional devastation among relatives. This culture of silence contributes to persistent sexual abuse in the country and is adopted by the victims who submit and suffer without saying a word.

Among young victims, the lack of general and sex education is cited as the reason why two out of three children do not report the crime – they do not understand they have been raped. This hardship is strengthened by the abuse itself being caused by the very people whom the children trust and go to for protection.


is an international solidarity association with the goal of helping abused and disadvantaged children.

The association works for:

  • The protection, rehabilitation and reintegration of children victim of sexual abuse, as well as the social support for their families.
  • The education, health, professional integration, and independence for disadvantaged youths and their families.
  • Raising awareness on Children’s rights, the prevention of mistreatment and sexual abuse among the general public, decision-makers, politicians and the media.