Recently an 11 year-old girl, Samantha Onse, was sexually assaulted and murdered in Aplaya, one of the communities we work in. Her body was dumped in a nearby garden where neighbors found it in the morning. Beth, one of our Community Health Advocates called us because no one there knew what to do or who to call. Beth knew we would be able to help. It took over an hour and three follow up calls, but the police finally arrived at the crime scene to investigate.
The girl was last seen by her parents when she left the house to walk to the water meter on the road to switch it off. It was one of her household chores that she did every night.
On Saturday we met with the teenagers of Aplaya. We decided to take our lead from what the teenagers themselves would tell us, and have the session move forward from there. We wanted to give the teens the space to talk about the incident in a safe setting, but we didn’t want to badger them if they didn’t want to talk.
Fourteen teenagers were there, and when we asked how the week had been, how they were feeling, we got a one-word answer: Malungkot. Sad. They all knew about the incident, and most of them knew Samantha quite well. One of them said he was her classmate and she was his best friend. Kawawa, (shame) they all said. Poor girl! There seemed to be no anger, but lots of pity, concern and fear. Three teens said they were afraid Samantha’s ghost might visit them, but nearly all were afraid something like that would happen to them too. Three very small girls the same age as the victim said they were afraid they would be next.
So we discussed safety precautions: never go out in the dark alone; walk home from school in groups; never take a quick shortcut through an unknown area by yourself; don’t talk to strangers or take anything they might offer you; be extremely wary of drinks offered, etc. This gave us a good chance to talk about alcohol use and to discourage them from drinking, especially if they were outside their own homes or with people they did not trust completely.
At one point one of the boys said you really should not trust someone, even if you know them. This is of course right on target as rape statistics show most rapes are carried out by people known to the victim. It just seemed so cynical coming from a 12 year old, but it underlined the fear these young people are facing.
When we moved on to grief counseling, Joie, one of our teachers, asked them if they were having trouble sleeping. Three or four, including the girl’s best friend, said yes, they were. Joie reassured them that their mourning was natural but would lessen over time. She also told them if they needed to talk to people, they should come to us or go to priests, teachers, whomever they thought would listen. The teens listened absolutely earnestly to all this.
We then changed tack to focus on personal strengths, and at that point we found we were able to redirect their energies into what they liked about themselves and what their own strengths are. They quickly jotted down their talents and then read their papers back to the class: We discovered we had people who could draw, people who help their families by cooking, one girl whose talent is simply being concerned for others and wanting to help. Then we turned to the song Firework by Katy Perry. The kids all knew the song. We cleared up some of the difficult imagery with a mini-English class, and with the song playing, the teenagers all sang enthusiastically. These young people are dealing with things they shouldn’t have to, but we are glad that we are able to help them verbalize their fears and process their feelings.
**UPDATE: We continue to hope for justice for Samantha but justice is often elusive. Two men turned themselves in but claim that it was a third person, who they refuse to name, who actually raped and killed her. All three are rumored to be addicted to shabu or speed, and speculation is that the ringleader is being protected because he is the main drug dealer. Relatives of the two men who turned themselves in are Roots of Health clients, so we are trying to lend them support as well.