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Father Shay Cullen is an Irish Columban missionary who has worked in the Philippines since 1969. In 1974, he founded the Preda Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to protecting the rights of women and children and campaigning for freedom from sex slavery and human trafficking.

Covid-19 pandemic fuels rise in sexual abuse

Covid-19 pandemic fuels rise in sexual abuse

A group of women raise slogans during a protest against sexual abuse in front of the people's representative council in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, on Dec. 23, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Published: January 20, 2022 10:27 AM GMT
Strict regulation of telecom corporations and internet service providers can reduce violence against women and children

Most people turn away from bad news, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, which is causing greater levels of sexual abuse and violence against women and children as lockdowns continue.

To know how to act, we must ask: Why is there a growing level of violence, physical and sexual, against women and children among males in today’s world?

The horrific number of sexual assaults, homicides, child sexual abuse, human trafficking of female children and intimate partner violence has reached epic proportions in recent years. Society is becoming more brutal, not civilized.

The violent murder recently of a young woman, Ashling Murphy, 23, in Tullamore, Ireland, has focused attention on these horrific crimes against women and children in so-called civilized societies. What was the cause of Ashling’s murder?

It is not just one more; it is one more of hundreds of thousands of femicides.

Mexico recorded the murders of 3,723 women in 2020. Amnesty International says at least 10 women and children are murdered every day in Mexico.

In the Philippines, huge numbers of children are trafficked and sexually abused online. The rape of children by biological fathers and live-in partners is increasing

Murders of young women by Islamic family members around the world in so-called “honor killings” are growing.

El Salvador has the highest rate of murders of women and children in Latin America.

In the Philippines, huge numbers of children are trafficked and sexually abused online. The rape of children by biological fathers and live-in partners is increasing.

One in three girls and one in six boys are victims of rape before the age of 16. This is a possible cause of the predatory behavior of some males. It is likely that sexual violence begets more sexual violence.

The proliferation of child sexual abuse material and video games showing violence against women and children made possible by the telecommunications corporations and their internet service providers may be driving the abuse.

They are a devastating, enabling influence. They refuse to obey the law and install blocking software to prevent human trafficking and sexual violence against children and young women.

The story of Petra is typical. She was a lonely abandoned child with no one to care for or love her but a sick aging grandmother. Petra (not her real name) had a difficult childhood that left her sad and depressed. Her mother died when Petra was three years old and her father married again and had three children. She felt unwanted and unloved, so Petra went to live with her maternal grandmother.

She was encouraged by her grandmother to study and was clever at school but her emotional deprivation made her lose hope. Then, Petra was devastated when her only loving relative, her grandmother, died.

Petra was feeling hopeless. She lived with an uncle but was not welcome. She was another mouth to feed for him.

Intimate partner violence is any kind of abuse that causes psychological harm, sexual aggression and includes physical force and even sexual coercion

She was now 14 and went to live with her teenage friends and they had a negative influence on her. She joined them in indulging in alcohol, smoking and teenage sexual encounters and at 15 thereabout she lived in with a boyfriend.

It was a loveless relationship and he was using her for his satisfaction. He controlled her and would not allow her to leave him. She experienced a form of sexual and psychological violence and control in that intimate relationship.

Women and children between the ages of 15 and 49 reported that they have been in a physically violent relationship with an intimate partner. That is 27 percent of all women worldwide.

Intimate partner violence is any kind of abuse that causes psychological harm, sexual aggression and includes physical force and even sexual coercion. It is all about power, domination by the man to control and dominate the woman or child.

Petra had no way out. She turned to her friends who encouraged her to strike out on her own and meet other men and leave her partner. They introduced her to Francesca, a human trafficker and pimp (not her real name) who sold her to men for sexual abuse in cheap hotels.

Then one day Francesca introduced her to a man, calling him Jaybee (not his true name), who opened a bag and showed a lot of money for a sex party to be held in a hotel. Francesca agreed to get more girls.

Jaybee said he would have sex with Petra, now 16, before the party. She didn't want that with him but was pressured by Francesca and was taken to a hotel and sexually abused by Jaybee, the organizer of the sex party.

Two days later with other children, Petra went to Mary’s hotel and restaurant in Apalit, Pampanga, for the sex party. There, she saw Jaybee hand over the payment to Francesca and suddenly police in plainclothes surrounded them and Francesca was arrested.

The organizer of the party who had abused Petra disappeared. He was an undercover agent working for an NGO that planned with police to arrest traffickers and rescue victims. He was a child sex abuser in disguise.

Reporting sexual abuse and saving victims with protection and therapy with legal action by victims is essential to fight abuse

A social worker and a policewoman appeared and took custody of Petra and the other children that were trafficked for sexual abuse.

They were referred to the Preda Foundation’s home for trafficked and abused children. There, Petra felt wanted by a family for the first time in her life. She felt safe, protected and was free to express all her loneliness and frustrations.

She came to realize her dignity and rights as a teenager and how she had been rejected and exploited all her life. She had emotional release therapy and cried and shouted at her cruel relatives that had abandoned her.

She cursed at Francesca, who gave her to Jaybee to be raped, and she screamed at Jaybee for sexually abusing her. Her anger and pain poured out and finally left her. She was free.

Jaybee was likely an undercover agent of an NGO that organized the party. Petra is now empowered and ready to testify against her abusers.

Reporting sexual abuse and saving victims with protection and therapy with legal action by victims is essential to fight abuse. They need help to file cases and convict rapists. Preda children win 15 convictions on average every year.

One thing that can be done by public protest and action is to demand worldwide strict regulation of the telecommunication corporations and the internet service providers to block child abuse images and videos. That is one way to reduce violence against women and children.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia