by Father Shay Cullen Profiles in Catholicism
Most people do not have any awareness of the terrible crimes against children that are going on around them every day and night. The secret hidden crimes against children are an everyday occurrence and like most crime, they are hidden of course and unless someone is looking and searching, they'll never know what is happening. Sexual abuse of children is done in a secret silent place. The abuser knows in his conscience and mind that it is very wrong and that he will be punished if it is ever discovered. In the Philippines, the penalties are severe and rightly so.
The child abuser is never content with one act of abuse or with one victim. There are many and most paedophiles are serial abusers. They abuse many children that is why a long sentence for child sexual abuse does justice for the victim-survivor. It is small recompense for the enormous life-long hurt, pain and suffering endured by the child. Then, no one can know what the pain and suffering is for the child unless it has happened to them.
Judge Gemma Theresa B. Hilario-Logronio of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 12, a family court, is one truly honourable judge that decides fairly on the evidence. Very recently in January 2021, she sentenced to life in prison the abuser of a child who was only 11 years when raped three times by her uncle. He will rape no more children. The same judge found Johnny Torres Medina guilty last May 2020 in a landmark decision. He was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of child sexual abuse of two 11-year old children.
He was sentenced to life in prison. These decisions have given much needed justice to the child victims and encouragement to other victims and the child protectors and advocates. The most astonishing case of a child who testified clearly and directly was a three year old, who was sexually assaulted by her biological Father 22 July, 2019. Harly Villaceran Bartolaba, the abuse was witnessed by her older sister. The 3-year-old described clearly what he did to her with his fingers causing her private parts to bleed. The judge was impressed with the testimony and strong evidence and found him guilty and sentenced him to 14 years in jail.
At the Preda Foundation, we know what the child suffers because we see and hear it in the healing process of the child victim-survivor. The Emotional Release Therapy enables the child to finally let out all that is bottled up inside her. It is an exercise in total freedom. It is a mighty release of deep feelings of pain, anger, hurt, hatred and anguish. It is enough to make one cringe and shiver and want to get away from the shouting, howling children, beating and punching the cushions as if beating the life out of their rapist.
After that, they have a sense of freedom, a great weight has been lifted and they become self-confident, empowered and can clearly testify without fear and shame. Many victims of sexual abuse have no hope of finding relief, freedom from the past trauma, and releasing the shock and fear, anxiety, buried pain and anger that they carry within them all their lives. Many succeed to bury it deeply within yet the scar and the wound is there ready to open with a reminder by any triggering event.
Two child victims, nine and 11 years old when they were abused, got justice from Judge Maria Angelica T. Paras-Quiambao of the Regional Trial Court Branch 59 in Angeles City, Pampanga last 11 June 2020. In an 81-page decision, she found Christina Limpin Mendoza, 22, guilty beyond reasonable doubt of five counts of human trafficking for sexual exploitation by a foreign paedophile. The trafficker was sentenced to several life terms of imprisonment. This is a powerful message that child abusers and human traffickers will bear the full weight of the law.
Judge Maria Cristina J. Mendoza-Pizzaro has also given justice to many child victims of rape and abuse. Last 10 June 2020, the sixth division of the Court of Appeals ruled in favour of upholding the conviction of a child rapist who she convicted on 15 November 2018 for qualified rape of a seven-year old child. The original judgement and conviction was made by Judge Maria Cristina J. Mendoza-Pizzaro who has a long significant history of a no-nonsense application of the law with many just convictions of child sexual rapists and traffickers. They will never abuse or rape children again.
The majority of child sex offenders are relatives of the child. The victim is trapped in the family and easily available. In the past year, this is terrifying and detrimental to the child’s well-being since she or he cannot escape into the night away from the approaching rapist- a biological father, a live-in partner of the mother, a brother or cousin or uncle or community paedophile. They are all the abusers of the 107 children that we helped rescue and protect last year 2020 and heal in the Preda Home for child sexually abused and trafficked children.
A vulnerable child is weak, powerless against a large male abuser. If he is a relative, he has ascendency over the child and exerts extreme pressure and fear. A child, when being molested, is mentally paralysed and frozen in fear, they tell their therapist. The fear is generated by threats. “I will kill you and your brothers and sisters and mother if you tell anyone. This is a secret. Hide it deep within you” And she does for all her life. How hard and shameful it is for a child to accuse her own father or brother of raping her? To go public would be to bring disgrace and punishment on her family. They would blame her for the rest of her life and they would not believe her. This is the additional suffering of the child victim, not to be believed and helped.
The child can be in a worse situation if she gets the courage to tell her mother. That is not always relief and salvation. Many mothers are totally dependent on the father or live-in partner for support. Many mothers choose not to believe their daughters because of the devasting effect it would have if the news got out to the neighbours or the authorities. There is the shame, the fear of retaliation by the abuser and the loss of financial and emotional support of a husband or a live-in partner. In some cases, we have had a most despicable crime where the child’s mother held down the child while the father raped her.
The only real answer is for the truth to come out and the abusers held accountable. For victims of on-line child sexual abuse, it is the telecommunication corporations that control the Internet Server Providers (ISPs) that must answer for not obeying section 6 of RA 9775 and for allowing the on-line sexual abuse of children and child pornography to run rampant. When will the government, the National Telecommunications Corporation, and the public stand up and demand justice for children is the big question.