Filipino women and children take part in a dance exercise in Manila to draw attention to child sexual abuse. (Photo: AFP)
There was a time in 2019 when people were getting the flu and thought little of it until it began to spread and hundreds and then thousands and hundreds of thousands were suffering and dying. No one was ready for what was to become a deadly pandemic that could hurt, wound and kill.
Hospitals and clinics were at full capacity and people were on ventilators and dying at the doors of hospitals. It can mutate, transform itself into another variant, more deadly, more vicious, and find new ways to transmit itself to new victims.
The coronavirus is a perfect simile for the crimes of child sexual abuse. Child abuse is a secret crime hardly ever seen or detected. Abusers change their methods of hiding and covering up crimes, especially in institutions. Schools, colleges and churches have almost perfected the art of covering up such criminal behavior. Most people do not recognize that it is everywhere and children are silent suffering victims. When it is suspected or detected, many people turn away. They do not reach out to the victim, no matter how many symptoms of abuse the child has.
Teachers, parents, duty bearers and child care workers must be taught to recognize the symptoms of child sexual abuse and be open to listening to every child that appears troubled, unruly, disturbed, rebellious and those that withdraw, stop studying, remain silent and stop playing.
Everybody must have the commitment and conviction to help a child get assistance and report the abuse to the authorities.
Online abuse is mostly done by relatives of the children. The acts are videotaped, photographed or sent live over the internet to rich pedophiles getting sexual gratification from the child abuse.
It is allowed, permitted and enabled by the morally bankrupt, uncaring and allegedly a few depraved executives of telecommunication corporations. It is shameful for any Filipino to be employed by them these days. They refuse to obey a law that mandates they install filtering or blocking software to prevent abusive images from passing through their Internet Service Providers. We survive in a corrupt society and must help child victims survive.
The most recent horrific cases involved an 11-year-old girl horribly abused for foreign pedophiles, a Swiss and a UK national. They also paid for young boys seven and 10 to be sexually exploited online by their mother. I hope the legal officers at the Swiss and UK embassies will take an active role in helping get justice for victims. They can get the testimonies of the victims in the care of the Preda Foundation. An average of 16 children at Preda homes in the Philippines get their abusers convicted every year to life in prison.
How wonderful it would be if foreign embassies and their attached law enforcers could investigate their abusive nationals and get convictions, too, and stop their pedophiles raping Filipino children.
The question is how much do they really care? The greed for money and the insatiable demands by rich foreign pedophiles are behind the sexual abuse of thousands of Filipino children. German police found as many as 30,000 pedophiles accessing child sexual abuse material online and identified 70 of them, many connected to the Philippines.
With exceptions, most families, citizens, government officials and agency heads, including many bishops in the Philippines and other churches have an uncaring attitude, indifference and a culture of apathy surrounding the sexual abuse of children. That is because, besides the few eight great bishops, they have many clerical abusers whom they hide away from the law and accountability and are not active defenders of child or human rights. Shame on them.
The clerical abusers are still being allowed to travel abroad, go to another parish or diocese or retire in the comfort of a church-supported rest house, all to avoid the shame, embarrassment and damage to the reputation of the diocesan institutional church.
Just a few brave courageous bishops and priests, from the 90 active and 40 honorary bishops and other clerics, are outspoken against child abuse and stand for human rights. The rest are allegedly silent. The abusers go free and the crimes continue. Only a few clerical child abusers have faced a prosecutor. Not a single cleric has been convicted of child abuse in the Philippines in the past 40 years or more, correct me if I am wrong. The abusers walk free and allegedly the child is thrown aside, their parents paid off.
Children suffer without help because of the apathy and because there are very few professionally accredited child care therapeutic homes for the protection, healing and empowerment of child victims/survivors with legal assistance like the Preda homes. There are thousands of hospitals, clinics, and health care centers for every kind of illness but there are practically no clinics, shelters, or therapy homes for the healing and recovery and legal assistance for child sexual abuse victims.
The reason is that society denies and ignores the pandemic of abuse and the medical profession is primarily a privatized, expensive, money-making business. The majority of child sexual abuse victims/survivors are very poor children — no money to be made there.
Most psychology graduates work for human resources departments in big corporations, no child help centers for them. The rich hide away their victims successfully. The scandal and shame on the family would be too much, the child is left to endure the abuse.
In the Philippines and elsewhere, thousands more are victims of sexual slavery through human trafficking and they, too, are allowed to be groomed, recruited, and lured over the internet and taken by pimps and traffickers into the sex business.
This human slavery is operated in brothels and sex bars and hotels that all have government permits and licenses to operate. Most operate with impunity protected by the local politicians and corrupt police.
The rights and dignity of children were again named as the top priority of the Catholic Church. The defenders of children's rights on the Papal Commission for the Protection of Minors were given new positions of highest responsibility and powers in the Roman Curia, the governing body of the Catholic Church.
The commission is to investigate clerical child abuse anywhere. Pope Francis has declared that every bishop, priest and layperson have to make child protection top priority and to care for, protect and listen and respond positively to children and their needs. The question is, will they?
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