The hope and dream of every victim of sexual abuse, rape, and violence is that they would be protected, cared for, healed, and find justice. The duty, mission, and commitment of every true Christian is to see that they do. The heart of the Christian faith is that goodness and truth will overcome evil and victims of abuse and injustice, survive on the hope that they will conquer spiritual death, and rise again to new spiritual and emotional life.
There are very few people or facilities in this world that are capable or willing to help children or adult victims/survivors heal from the pain, trauma, fear, depression, and alienation they suffer from having been raped, battered, and molested. The sexual abuse of children and women is mostly met with apathy and indifference by the majority in society that allows and enables child sexual abuse to grow with impunity. An estimated 60,000 children are sexually abused annually by traffickers, according to Unicef. One to five girls and boys are sexually abused. Another study says that 1.2 million children suffer some form of abuse online annually in the Philippines.
There is systematic denial and cover-up of child sexual abuse in families, society, and the Church. The revelations from Canada, the United States, the Philippines, and many other countries are sufficient to substantiate this contention.
Without a major change in attitude and a commitment by duty bearers, government officials, bishops and priests, and civil society to deal with this horrific crime by enabling children to report abuse and establishing therapeutic healing centers with free supportive professional healing, there is little chance of helping and saving survivor/victims of rape and abuse from a life of misery and unhappiness and life-long suffering.
What does childhood sexual abuse do to children but destroy their life, rob their childhood, and subject them to live in fear, with buried pain, hurting every day, filled with suppressed anger, hatred, desires for revenge, and retaliation against abusers, society, enablers, and parents? The cry of many children is “Mama, why did you not believe me, why did you let him do it to me?”
Most child victims/survivors live with the pain and suppressed memories but others cannot and they grow up in anger, with hatred even, nursing buried desires to take revenge on abusers, on families, on schoolmates, or on society in general who reject them and vent it through acts of violence. Aggression, vindictiveness, and tyrannical acts in some violent people are likely the result of childhood abuse. Any rejection — verbal or emotional — can trigger violent acts from some untreated victims. Many may become child abusers themselves.
There are thousands of clinics and hospitals to treat the wounds and sickness of the body but not of the soul. Change must come, healing centers for the wounds to the psyche, the emotions, and to the inner person of a child, are equally necessary.
The children need support and encouragement to disclose and reveal any physical or sexual trauma they have or are suffering in their home or outside it. The school teachers and guidance counselors and child-minders must be trained to be alert and sensitive to read and interpret the unusual behavior of some troubled children. The professionals need to be trained to respond with understanding and kindness and listen with concern. They must be a trusted, skilled person to encourage a child to tell “secrets” and to report abuse. The trusted person should be a teacher, a supportive parent, a neighbor, a classmate, or a relative. When they learn of any suspected abuse, they are mandated by law to report it at once to the municipal social worker and see to it that the social worker responds appropriately and the child is taken into protective care away from the suspected abuser.
There is always danger to the child from an abusive parent, relative, or official. They may choose not to believe the child and even threaten the child to report the abuse. This is especially true if the abuser is a person in the ascendancy, has the authority, or is in a position of influence, like a government official or cleric. They will try to stop the information from becoming public and protect the institution, not the child.
The challenge for the social worker is to find a protective center to refer a child to for protection and help. There are very few in the Philippines. President Marcos said there he will ensure that there is sufficient funding for only 70 government residential centers throughout the country for abused women and children. The nation with a population of 110 needs many more and they should provide professional therapeutic healing and empowerment programs more than temporary shelter.
The Preda Foundation has one of the most successful therapeutic communities where the children are welcomed into a friendly, supportive atmosphere of affirmation, and acceptance, where the children know they are protected, trusted and believed. The Preda Therapeutic community is providing all their needs free of charge. The feeling of being safe and protected from the abuser is the start of the healing and empowerment of the child. There is an average of 90 children cared for at the Preda home during any 12-month period by a professional staff of all female therapists, facilitators, and social workers. It is an alternative caring family that has many therapeutic healing activities for the children treated according to their age from four years old to 17.
The most effective is the Emotional Release Therapy where the child has the chance to recall the abuse in a sound-proofed, padded therapy room assisted by a therapist and there release her (or his) pent-up buried anger, pain, and hurt by crying, shouting and punching the cushions as if hitting her (his) abuser. Over a period of several months, the stress and anger is gone and the self-confidence and empowerment of the child or youth is apparent. With educational classes, recreation and play therapy, group dynamics, life testimony, dignity-building, and values formation, an almost full recovery is achieved.
The child then wants justice and is ready to file a formal complaint with the prosecutor if she(he) has not already done so. The empowered children are clear, consistent, and constant in their testimony even when subjected to strict cross-examination. They win an average of 16 convictions of their abusers every year. Most of the convicted abusers receive a mandatory life sentence from strict but very precise, fair, and committed female judges. What is needed is many more such centers to protect and heal and empower the abused child victims and give them a new happier restart in life.
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. The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.