Indian Catholic News

How to respond to child sexual abuse

Society must learn that such crimes should never be tolerated or brushed under the carpet.

 
Child sexual abuse happens not only in poor communities but everywhere, including homes, schools, and even in churches. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
By Father Shay Cullen
Manila: 

The latest victims to be admitted to the Preda home for abused children are two sisters — five and three years old. The perpetrator is the children’s biological father, the live-in partner of their mother.

The children complained of pain. The mother knew it was a crime. She rushed to the town's social worker and reported the abuse.

The social worker responded at once, recorded all information and took the children for a medical examination that later found lacerations and evidence of sexual abuse.

Right away, she acted to file a case against the live-in partner and brought the children to the protection of the Preda home.

The effective system to report abuse and have a quick response team worked well. It happened in the town of Castillejos, Zambales province in the northern Philippines.

The rising number of child sexual abuse and incest victims is shocking, abhorrent and very disturbing.

The proliferation of child pornography on the internet made available on cell phones to everyone is causing child sexual abuse to spread rapidly.

This heinous crime of child sexual abuse and child rape is everywhere. It is found in every country, in the home, in institutions, in churches, in schools, on the internet, in the street and in sex bars and brothels.

It is growing and yet few people are reporting such horrific crimes that are all around us every day.

It is a crime that most people never talk about. They ignore, deny or cover up the truth. As a result, the vast majority of these crimes are never reported.

The worldwide figure of child sexual abuse is one in every four children experience sexual abuse at least once in their lives.

In the Philippines, as statistics indicate, it starts in the child’s family. Family members sexually abuse a staggeringly high number.

We humans as a species and as members of so-called civilized society have much to answer for. Our species is the only one that sexually abuses and exploits their own offspring and on a horrific scale.

Child trafficking is a huge business. It is estimated that at least 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide annually. Most of the victims are used for the sexual gratification of the sex tourists.

In developing countries like the Philippines, it is allowed to grow and thrive. Children are trafficked and abused in sex bars and also sexually exposed and abused live on the internet to foreign pedophiles.

It surely induces them to come and do it in real life.

This industry, which operates with government permits and licenses, gives a clear message that young girls and children are fair game.

It is like a carnival of sex abuse going on, with illegal drugs proliferating everywhere, ignored by the "war on drugs." The girls are trapped in drug dependency and debt bondage.

In the Philippines, there is no national database of the number of abused children. However, UUNICEF and Save the Children conducted research on child abuse in the Philippines in 2016 where 3,866 school children and youths were asked about child abuse.

The final report estimated total prevalence of violence against children among males was 81.5 percent and 78.4 percent among females.

It said that about 17.1 percent of children aged 13 to 18 years experienced sexual violence, and 13.7 percent experienced sexual abuse in the home.

Among boys, 1.6 percent reported serious forced sexual acts against them and for girls 2.4 percent were seriously sexually assaulted.

The report also said "the prevalence of overall sexual violence in the school was 5.3 percent."

About 3.3 percent said the sexual violence happened when they were six to nine years; 9.9 percent when they were between 10-12 years of age, 22 percent at the time they were 13-15 years old, and 27.5 percent when they reached 16 to 18 years.

These figures reflect a national problem that needs an immediate emergency response.

Three things are urgently needed: the first is preventive education. A cadre of permanent expert trainers who will implement a sustained program of community preventive education together with a team working social media and mass media to get the message across.

The message is that child abuse of all kinds is a serious crime and it must be reported. Parents and adults must have respect and affirming love for their children.

The second response together with the first is a permanent legal team composed of a paralegal and a social worker in each municipality and more in each city.

They work with the police to respond immediately to any and every report of child abuse and strictly implement the child protection law and bring the child to safety and hold the suspect abuser to accountability and justice.

Thirdly, there is the urgent need to set up child therapeutic homes for the victims where they can be safe and protected from the abusers and his or her relatives.

The homes must have trained psychologists and therapists and social workers to implement a complete holistic healing program to empower the child, heal the pain, and enable them to testify clearly and confidently.

Without these three responses working together the problem will not be addressed or solved. Thousands of children will continue to be abused and we must not let that happen.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.

Source: UCAN

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