By Shay Cullen
Peace will likely never come to the world until violence against children- physical, emotional, psychological and sexual- comes to an end. This heinous crime against vulnerable children is a violation of human rights. It creates life-long suffering, anguish and pain that last into adulthood. The memories are hard to eradicate, they shape and influence character and personality, making victims to be who they are.
Many victims endure memories of abuse. They are resilient, brave and courageous. They become good, virtuous adults. However, other victims can become negative, vengeful and cruel, lacking empathy and compassion. They can be violent and even become powerful leaders and tyrants, killing thousands with impunity such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Genghis Khan and many more.
Millions of adults have never reported the childhood abuse they experienced. They endure the buried pain throughout their lives and are re-victimized by society that stigmatizes and shames victims, even blaming them for being abused. As children, they feared adult anger if they complained and accused their abusers.
They fear they will not be believed and even punished for reporting that they were sexually abused. Most victims, it seems, cannot trust adults or the justice system. Child abuse is a secret crime. The word of a child against that of a more intimidating powerful adult carries little credibility. That is all the more true if their abusers are people in authority or clerics.
Why is it that the sensitive reality and truth of childhood abuse is shunted aside by society? It is seldom discussed and nearly always avoided and denied. It is hidden in families, denied by people in authority, covered up by leaders of institutions and even by church authorities and ministers. All too often, it is ignored and not treated as a top priority as it should be, being a heinous crime.
This situation is real today but there is hope as in some places, it is slowly changing. In this #MeToo generation, more victims are reporting abuse and the media, some law enforcers, good prosecutors and the courts are responding and implementing the hard-won laws to hold abusers to account. However, it is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
The #MeToo movement has opened up the subject to the public. Some victims do get help and there are more non-government organizations (NGOs) offering help and shelter but few have a healing therapy to empower and give legal action to get justice for the victims and jail for the abusers to prevent more children being abused. The Preda Foundation offers full protection for victims, therapeutic services, legal action, healing and empowerment. The children win an average of 16 convictions a year against their abusers.
However, prevention through public awareness-building is essential. Considering that one in every three girls and one in six boys suffer childhood sexual abuse, the number of victims is huge.
So, why the denial and cover up and reluctance to be transparent about the truth? Perhaps, society is utterly ashamed that human beings sexually abuse their own children. Perhaps, they know it is the most reprehensible, despicable, shameful crime that a human can commit and it is a life-long experience that hurts and harms the child into adulthood.
We must also know that the pain of abuse, rejection and denial of love in childhood causes anger, pain and hatred and a powerful desire for revenge. Some victims that get no help may become people of violent tendencies. They can direct their anger and hatred against innocent people and become adult killers and perpetrators of human rights violations, torture and massacres. They can become psychopaths perhaps but are adults that have suffered themselves and can vent on others their pent-up anger and hatred through acts of violence. Even child abuse does not remove or excuse responsibility for evil deeds.
Some like Adolf Hitler caused the Holocaust and brutally killed millions of Jews and others. He endured child abuse. His father was a cruel, punishing, authoritarian, aggressive father. At one time, he beat his son 32 times and the boy did not cry, believing bravery was to endure pain. Genghis Khan, the most brutal killer of civilians in all history, was abused as a child slave. Joseph Stalin, a mass murderer, was an abused child, too. These psychopaths and many more were the perpetrators of violence, massacres and wars. It takes only one to rise to a position of political or military power to destroy the peace and wreck violence on a whole nation and lead them to a world war.
Throughout the centuries, child abuse was common and there were few laws, if any, to protect the victims. It was Jesus of Nazareth that was the first to declare the dignity and rights of the child to be loved and cared for and to have justice and the abuser to be held to account (Matthew 18:1-7). This was ignored by the Christian churches and other religions have tolerated and covered up sexual abuse of children.
In the past thirty years since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, child protection laws have been passed in various countries protecting children from abuse and human trafficking. This was historical and this writer was privileged to be part of the delegation from NGOs that participated in the drafting conference in Helsinki.
New and improved anti-trafficking law amendments have been recently passed in the Philippine Senate. The latest is Senate Bill 2449 and is very welcome.
Section 9 of the Senate Bill holds the persons in authority in the Telecommunication Corporations and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) responsible for allowing, enabling and making it possible for children to be groomed, seduced, trafficked and abused on-line. It removes the contradiction in law used by the ISPs as the reason they do not obey RA 9775 to install blocking software to stop child abuse images and human trafficking promotions to pass through their facilities and servers.
This amendment in Senate Bill 2449 means they will have to install the blocking software to prevent their facilities being used for promoting child abuse or trafficking. The fine for not doing so will be from 2 million to 5 million pesos for every offense by the ISPs. The CEO of the ISPs can be charged, also. The ISPs must provide all information on any customer’s account when ordered to do so by a judge.
What we need now is for the House of Representatives to pass their version of the expanded law without further delay. (www.preda.org)