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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.

The Church must heal childhood sexual abuse

The task facing honest, morally committed Church leaders, bishops, priests and lay people is for them to be child defenders and healers

The task facing honest, morally committed Church leaders, bishops, priests and lay people is for them to be child defenders and healers. (Photo: AFP)

Published: August 17, 2022 10:23 AM GMT
When it comes to victims of child abuse there is no greater challenge to Faith

There is so much good that true Christians and the Church can do to help and heal the wounded. All Catholics must be good Samaritans if they aspire to be true Christians and followers of Jesus of Nazareth.

When it comes to victims of child abuse there is no greater challenge to Faith. If Faith is believing that goodness, love and truth will overcome evil then we need plenty of these virtues.

The task facing honest, morally committed Church leaders, bishops, priests and lay people is for them to be child defenders and healers, be child rights activists and support all victims in every way possible, report abuse and get victims to the protection and help of a therapy center.

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All must actively oppose the evil of child abuse and trafficking and bring the perpetrators and enablers of child abuse to justice. Remember that pious prayers are not enough, faith is believing that goodness and truth will overcome evil and acting on that to work for social justice following the example of Jesus of Nazareth. Faith without action is dead, says St. James.

In years past, abusers got away with their crimes. Now brave children are bringing their abusers to justice with good judges handing down life sentences to child rapists and traffickers. The victims need kind people giving understanding, encouragement and support to help the child to disclose the abuse.

There are few people in the world or in the Philippines that have not been physically, verbally, psychological or sexually hurt and abused in their childhood. They have been emotionally damaged and they carry the hurt and do not totally forget it.

"The cycle of domestic violence and child abuse continues into the next generation"

They are the brave victims/survivors — children and adults — of human family life. Their parents are likely to have been abused also and vented their pain and anger on their children. The cycle of domestic violence and child abuse continues into the next generation.

The damaging impact of a cruel relative, parent or pedophile robbed the victim/survivor of their childhood and condemned them to a life of misery with buried, repressed memories of rape and sexual assault as their nightmarish companion for a lifetime and they cannot do anything about it.

The victims of abuse are forbidden to complain, to ask for help, to get justice. There is no refuge for them to flee to, they cannot escape the pain and memory and their abusers.

There is no place to feel safe, protected and there are no Emotional Release Therapeutic healing centers for them save one that I know of at the Preda Foundation.

Here, more than 50 children at any one time have found healing, refuge, empowerment and justice against their abusers. There are countless clinics to heal the wounds of the body but almost none for the inner soul.

The brave victims/survivors grew up with buried memories or believing the false story that such abuse is just a dark and difficult part of life. The abuse grows because society has the narrative that childhood abuse is the occupational hazard of childhood where it’s the regular practice for many parents, brothers or sisters, guardians, relatives, teachers, and priests to sexually, physically and emotionally abuse children with impunity. There are many families that love and care for their children but many do not.

"Instead of outrage, protest and condemnations of child abuse by all sectors of society and by Church leaders, silence and tolerance has been the response"

There is a dark culture of childhood suffering and no way to resolve it. The child victims of sexual abuse have been told to shut up and not to complain and they are frightened by threats. Many victims run away to the streets and become sex workers.

Some victims are conditioned to cooperate with their abusers and are offered incentives and conditioned or groomed to become teenage sex workers and earn money for their pimps, traffickers or even for the support of their family. They receive a small share for themselves.

Instead of outrage, protest and condemnations of child abuse by all sectors of society and by Church leaders, silence and tolerance has been the response. This has been ignored and tolerated and even applauded by many in a society dubbed the international hub of online child sexual abuse. The culture of abuse and trafficking of children must be vigorously challenged and denounced and remedied by action for healing and justice by Church and state.

Witness the horrid Philippine law that for 87 years allowed 12-year-old children to be sex partners for older men. The children were abused with impunity until this year when progressive Congress people led by Senator Risa Hontiveros passed a law raising the age of consent to 16.

Now, any act of sexual abuse (except between teenagers) of a child below 16 is statutory rape. Consider the approved history of abuse when for 87 years 12-year-old children were legally fair game for pedophiles. How could society allow it? It was tolerated and still is by some who say the child victims want it, like it and ask for sex with adults. That is a monumental lie, blaming the victims to justify child abuse and satisfy their lewd desires.

If you were to visit our therapy room at the Preda home for abused children or view a video of the Emotional Release Therapy at the Preda Foundation, you would witness and be shocked at the violent emotional outburst of pain, anger and hatred, with a violent physical reaction of the sexually abused teenagers and children when recalling the experience of abuse and exploitation.

"Millions of children get no help and live with these buried experiences that exert pressure on them" 

They shout and scream in anger and hatred at the abuser, beating the cushions as if punching their rapist. There is no willingness there, only total rejection and demand for retribution. The sessions are repeated for weeks and months until they change, lose all fear and anger and the hatred is gone.

They become self-confident and empowered young people and they file and pursue a court case to get justice and closure with the conviction of the rapists. Every year, the children win an average of 15 convictions by competent fair judges who study the evidence and believe the clear testimony of the child. Hundreds of courageous brave victims/survivors graduate from the Preda home and have gone on to live happy normal lives after a year at the Preda therapeutic home.

Millions of children get no help and live with these buried experiences that exert pressure on them as they try to appear normal and live fearful, hurt lives carrying the secret of being victims of incest and rape. It affects their normal childhood, their education and the buried memories and experiences block their normal human development into mature strong intelligent people. The effects of that crime last a lifetime.

In fact, there are so many victims/survivors of abuse in society that cannot revisit the pain and memories because there are no therapy centers that can help them. They are the wounded survivors and they know that extensive child abuse is still going on all around them. No history of child abuse will excuse or justify the victim abusing other children ever.

* 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