Discussions on sexual consent came into light as a writing workshop fellow claims of being under the influence of alcohol when the event’s keynote speaker and panelist allegedly raped her.
An Iligan National Writers Workshop (INWW) poetry fellow wrote a Facebook note where she recounted her experience during the event’s closing ceremony on May 31 at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology.
According to her, everyone was in a celebratory mood since it was the last day of the five-day workshop at that time.
“A number of the writing fellows, senior fellows and members of the panel of the workshop were all drinking, singing and having a good time in the secretariat’s room in the university hostel,” the fellow shared.
She claimed that her last clear memory was blacking out from alcohol inebriation in a mattress at the secretariat’s room.
However, “reliable” eyewitness accounts had told her she eventually woke up, danced with INWW alumnus and workshop panelist Timothy Dimacali and then went to the rooms.
“The next thing I know, I’m downstairs outside the doorway of my room. Someone’s kissing me — it’s the workshop’s keynote speaker and panelist (KS). We enter the room,” the fellow wrote.
“I black out again, but vaguely remember a few of the sexual things that happen (like my mouth being on KS’ person, his skin fully bared). When I wake up, it’s 6 in the morning, and I am naked and alone in my room,” she continued.
The fellow added that one of the eyewitnesses — who was also her co-writing fellow — claimed that he saw Dimacali sit on her bed before the alleged rape took place.
“I don’t remember giving him my consent. Not once during the night. What’s more, intoxicated individuals CANNOT give consent. That’s in the law,” she said.
‘Matter between two consenting adults’
Dimacali, on the other hand, “vehemently” denied the fellow’s accusations against him but claimed to “vindicate” his name with the truth. He also added that he has “availed of legal advice” following the posts on social media.
To my family, friends, colleagues, and the institutions that trust in me, I am making myself available to discuss this…
“I would like to give my personal assurance to my family, friends, colleagues, and the institutions that have, and will repose their trust in me, that I have never, and will never take advantage of anyone,” Dimacali said.
The Mindanao Creatives Writers Group (MCWG), one of the workshop’s organizers, and the Mindanao Creative Writers Group-Multi-Media Arm also released a statement but eventually deleted it on social media.
Some Filipinos were able to take a screenshot of the post when it was still public.
The group responded that it “does not condone rape or any form of sexual harassment.”
“It also interviewed several writing fellows and members of the staff who were present on the night of the said incident, several hours after the workshop officially closed. The investigation pointed to the alleged incident being a private matter between two consenting adults,” it continued.
MCWG also appealed for “sobriety and prudence” from the public in light of the matter.
The Iligan National Writers Workshop is one of the three national writing workshops annually held in the Philippines. It is sponsored by the National Commission for Culture and Arts and managed by the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology.
The workshop is considered one of the most prestigious of its kind in the literary community and is the only one that publishes the fellows’ works in book form.
‘End rape culture now’
A group of female professionals advocating for the advancement of women’s rights in the country has denounced the alleged incident, including MCWG’s statement which described it as “seemingly one-sided.”
Gabriela Network of Professionals (G-NET) urged for an “end to rape culture” as it called for a proper investigation of the case and a “definitive solution to finally end the rampant assaults in the academe.”
On the 26th Iligan National Writers’ Workshop rape issue and all forms of harassment: Gabriela Network of…
“We denounce the seemingly one-sided update from INWW, which was released (and eventually deleted) months after the incident. It seems like this was only published to poorly respond to us, but not to the victim. They did not protect her identity,” the group said.
“Consequences of rape don’t end in a day, but the culture that perpetuates this lifetime struggle needs to end now,” it continued.
On rape and sexual consent
In her Facebook note, the fellow emphasized that she has never given consent for Dimacali to touch her, even though she was “very inebriated” that night.
“How could I give consent, I was inebriated that night,” a part of her statement reads.
However, MCWG concluded that it was a matter that happened “between two consenting adults” based on their investigations.
Under Philippine law, a sexual intercourse is considered rape “when the offended party is deprived of reason or otherwise unconscious,” among others.
It includes being inebriated or drugged during the incident.
According to psychologist Rica Cruz, one of the problems that perpetuate rape culture is how the Philippine society has ingrained the mindset that part of being a man equates to “having power over women.”
This, she noted, is “tantamount to sexual entitlement” which disregards the matter of asking for consent.
“In our country, boys have been told to ‘man up,’ or ‘magpakalalaki’ at a very young age. From this cultural POV, part of being a man is having power over women,” Cruz said.
“Hence, when women resist or say ‘no,’ men think that these women are just playing ‘hard to get’ and they should be pursued more until they ‘surrender,’ or ‘hanggang bumigay,'” she added.
“Thinking of women as passive recipients of male initiation removes women’s right to their agency to consent — and contributes to rape culture,” Cruz continued. — Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos