It is well established that child sexual abuse is widespread. One in every three girls is a victim and it is a crime committed in secret with threats and intimidation. The young victims are frightened, intimidated by threats, and often fear that they will not be believed and even punished for making allegations against a relative or a person in authority.
Many children do not know what to do or how to complain and report abuse to adults. Many do not know that they can take legal action against their abusers. They need supporting adults who know the gravity of sexual abuse and its damaging impact on the life of a person. Adults should be able to determine to see that a child can get help and therapy and justice. More professional therapy homes are needed to help child-victims get justice.
Members of the public have to act to help and save the children. Extensive community education about child abuse is essential if we are to reduce the level of abuse. All duty-bearers should have greater sympathy and understanding for rebellious children, such as street children, many of whom are victims of sexual, physical or psychological abuse in their homes or in the neighborhood.
That’s how it was with Cherry (not her real name.) She lives in Caloocan City. She dropped out of school and wandered the streets at 13 years old. She began stealing and going with gangs. She experienced no mother’s love. Her mother left the family years before, leaving the young Cherry to her father and grandmother.
She was sent to a government center for wayward children, and after five months, she revealed to her grandmother that she had been raped six times by a neighbor, Bernabe Serrano y Viscera, since 2016 until April 19, 2018. With no healing shelter in Caloocan, she was brought to the Preda Foundation in Zambales to recover and heal from the abuse.
In the Preda home, Cherry became empowered with the help of therapies, including the very effective Emotional Release Therapy (ERT) where, in the therapy room, she cried and shouted out her anger and hatred. She punched the cushions and screamed the abuser’s name in anger. She released the pain and hurt and was healed. She became mature and self-confident and filed a case with the prosecutor in Caloocan. She stood her ground and testified strongly in court.
Judge Barbara Aleli H. Briones of the Caloocan Family Court believed her and sentenced Bernabe Serrano y Viscera to four life sentences. The more child rapists are imprisoned, the more children will be safe and the message that justice will be done will deter others from abusing children. Another victory by and for Preda children.
The case of 14-year old Angie (not her real name) is shocking and instructive and can serve as a warning to would-be child sex offenders. The grandfather started sexually abusing Angie when her grandmother was out of the house. He threatened the child and repeated the sexual act many times. Angie was so frightened and scared she dared not report the rape to anyone. Angie’s father was dead and her mother was an overseas domestic worker.
On February 6, 2020, at 10 p.m., her grandfather sexually abused her again. This time, Angie was again very angry. She found the courage to tell her mother through social media what her grandfather was doing to her. Her mother called the principal and a teacher at Angie’s school and told them to help Angie. They took Angie to the municipal social worker and the police station. They interviewed the child and referred her to the Preda Foundation home for abused children in Subic, Zambales.
There, she found acceptance, protection and safety from the anger and retaliation of her grandfather, now deprived of his sex slave. In Preda, Angie felt accepted and understood and she had Emotional Release Therapy. She was soon recovering and became strong and empowered and filed her case with the prosecutor against her grandfather.
Angie was soon learning at a new school and enjoying the freedom from fear and abuse. Judge Teresa Pagtalunan-Mauleon believed the clear testimony of Angie and sentenced Lorenzo Figuracion to life in prison. The huge fines levied on him will never be paid to Angie but it is enough that she found victory and justice at last.
Another case resolved this past week after three and half years is against a human trafficker, Allyana Ysabel Fernandez known as “Quenn.” She recruited and lured 11 minors, the youngest only 15 years of age, to the Golden Victory Hotel in Mabiga, Mabalacat, Pampanga, on March 4, 2019, to sell them to sex to customers. The teenagers were shocked when several male “sex customers” came into the room and gave the trafficker a wad of money. As soon as she accepted it, she was immediately arrested and handcuffed on the spot. Some of the teenagers burst into tears when they realized that the “customers” were in fact under-cover police.
The undercover agents of the Philippine National Police Women and Children’s Protection Center (WCPC) of the Luzon Field Unit based in Camp Crame had just concluded a brilliantly successful entrapment operation. Eleven of the victims were sent to the Preda home for trafficked children since there is no therapeutic healing center in Pampanga with Emotional Release Therapy (ERT) and empowerment training for victims of trafficking. After months of therapy and empowerment, most of them recovered and agreed to testify in court. Fernandez has been found guilty of human trafficking by Judge April Joy B. Magsayo-Aguila and sentenced to life in prison, according to the court decision issued on November 17, 2022.
The victim/survivors have all been reintegrated in their families and are living a more normal, happier life of dignity. There are 63 children at the Preda home at present healing and recovering from rape and online abuse.
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.