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20 Jahre Tatort – Straßen der Welt e.V.

20 Jahre Tatort – Straßen der Welt e.V.

20 Jahre Tatort – Straßen der Welt e.V.

15.10.2020 Reflections by Fr. Shay Cullen, - International Day of the Girl

There are thousands of young girls taking a stand against the violence and abuse that they have endured. It’s inspiring to know that the age of total docility and subservience, child abuse and sex slavery is being challenged and changed. The curtain of silence has been torn, the light of truth has poured into the dark abyss of child sexual abuse and much has been revealed and challenged. Yet more must be done to stop it and curtail the insatiable lust for child sex. Too many people yet consider children available targets for their pleasure, control and abuse.

In our experience, children are sexually abused by relatives, brothers, fathers, cousins and live-in partners of their mothers and local pedophiles. Yet, girls are fighting back given the chance. Many are finding the courage and resilience to speak out and report abuse and challenge their rapists and abusers. They must be listened to and given protection, therapy and help. Then, they can take the witness stand in court and tell their story with courage and bravery.

Hundreds are winning convictions. In 2018, with the help of the Preda Foundation, the children won 18 convictions. In 2019, they won 20 convictions and in 2020 so far 10 children won convictions. Almost all the rapists got life sentences. We can win the fight against child rape and abuse. The judges in family courts today are mostly female and many believe the child victim when it is the girl’s word against her accused assailant. Provided that her testimony is clear, coherent, direct and credible and withstands the cross examination of the defense counsel, then she is believed and wins. We should be all proud of these girls who have fought with courage and won justice. But it is dereliction of duty by officials that all too few children get the support, protection, empowerment to be able to do so.

Consider the facts of a five-year study into violence against children. This research, the results of which were released in 2016, was a survey of thousands of Filipino children based on interviews done by the Council for the Welfare of Children supported by Unicef. It found that the “total prevalence of all forms of violence against children is at 80%, with boys at 81.5% and girls, 78.4%; one in three children experiences physical violence, with more than half of them happening at home.” 

The victims being healed in the Preda Foundation disclose being physically abused such as being beaten with slippers or sticks, whipped with rattan canes, being kicked, slapped, punched, and sexually abused. They also suffer psychological abuse as they endure cursing, denunciation, rejection, threats of violence, neglect, child labor, denial of food and clothes, education and basic needs.

The research discovered that for girls, “one in five children below age 18 have experienced sexual violence while growing up. Common perpetrators of sexual violence are brothers or cousins.”

Thousands of girls are lured and trafficked into the sex industry by human traffickers and are trapped in a cycle of fear, dependence, debt bondage and fear of prosecution and retaliation if they do not submit to sexual exploitation and abuse. Local governments issue licenses and permits for the sex bars and brothels to operate. The sex trade is still thriving despite the Covid-19 and children are still sold as sex-slaves and made dependent on crystal meth, a banned substance. Few traffickers are actually convicted due to weak law enforcement. New laws being readied will raise the age of consent to 16 years from a low of 12 years. This makes any act of sexual abuse by anyone against any child 16 years and below statutory rape that carries a sentence of life in prison. Another proposed law is to ban all kinds of child marriage.

At present, Unicef says that 2 percent of Filipino girls are married by the age of 15-years-of-age and 15 percent are married by 18-years -of-age. However, thousands more teenagers are forced into relationships with older men as partners in so-called common-law “marriage” and become pregnant.The Philippines has one of the world’s highest rate of teenage pregnancy. Six percent of all teenage girls give birth each year. The Philippine Statistical Authority reports that every day an estimated 538 babies are born to Filipino teenage mothers, some 15 years old. That is 196,370 babies born by teenage mothers every year. Most are abandoned by the fathers.

The machismo culture of male dominance and a false view that females are inferior still pervade Philippine society despite much progress. Many aspects of life are sexualized even children's programs on TV and social media show six-year-olds displayed dressed as adults complete with jewelries and makeup. It’s a pantomime for pedophiles. We must oppose this exploitation.

Online sexual abuse of children in the Philippines is the worst in the world. Uncontrolled Internet proliferation of child pornography is to be blamed. Government must enforce child protection laws and curb online sexual abuse of children by forcing the telecommunication companies PLDT/Smart, Globe Telecom and soon Dito Telecommunity to obey the Anti-Child Pornography Law of 2009 (RA9775) and compel them to install, as the law demands, effective blocking software on their servers. They have allegedly chosen to pay a small fine instead of protecting the children from pornography and online sexual abuse. The software is there such as Microsoft PhotoDNA and VideoDNA that can use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect and block the abusive content and remove it and provide evidence to police.

We need to protect and heal the child victims and empower them. Child sexual abuse is a pandemic. Government and NGOs, besides talking and posturing, need to act and save the victims and establish protective therapeutic homes where there is dedicated professional help available to enable the victim/survivors of rape and abuse to recover and overcome the trauma. The children must be empowered to testify clearly and decisively against their assailants. The Philippines has very few such facilities with high professional standards that know how to heal and cure the children effectively.

 The public must be educated about the need to prevent and report child abuse and to initiate strong legal action to bring thousands of child rapists to justice and imprison them to the penitentiary in Palawan where they can no longer abuse children. Only the human species sexually abuses their own offspring. We must oppose this with all our strength. We can all be advocates and defenders of children’s rights. Share this article with others and help bring about meaningful change.