THE incredible silence that surrounds the abuse of children is what is most disturbing and shocking for some but not the majority of people. The vast majority chooses not to notice and come to the help of children when it’s clear they are in a dire dangerous circumstance of human trafficking for sexual abuse and exploitation. That is how it was for Annalisa, her story is here. The few brave and courageous people are those who see, judge and act to help victims of abuse. They will say it’s just the right and normal thing to do and it’s a moral obligation to protect children.
Civilized people of all faiths and religions know and abhor such horrific crimes and yet they are all too frequent and the silence and looking away is all too shameful. Reporting crimes, even when the report is secret and anonymous, it is seldom done. As a result thousands of children suffer terrible sexual and physical abuse and the criminals can continue raping children with impunity. It is a failure to put faith, principles and knowledge into action.
An incredible mother at 14, that’s the only way to describe one brave courageous child who gave birth a few months ago after three years of continual sexual abuse by her own father. There is no other way to describe Annalisa (not her real name) because we adults can hardly imagine such a terrible incestuous crime against a child that resulted in her bearing a child by her biological father. In fact it is abhorred by most people and is so shameful that it is continually denied, covered up and ignored.
That’s how it was for Annalisa. Many had seen her being abused but did nothing to save her as if they believed that an 11–year– old could give consent to sexual intercourse when it is impossible for her to do so. Until she was rescued by the Preda Foundation social workers she had known only abuse and hardship.
Annalisa was born of a loveless passing sexual encounter. Her parents never lived together. Her father did not know he had a daughter as she grew up with her mother and her mother’s live-in partner and the maternal grandmother in Olongapo City.
Annalisa at 11 was a slight, malnourished helpless child with an eye infection.
One day, Annalisa’s biological father was in Olongapo visiting his sister and heard he had a daughter and came to visit Annalisa for the first time. He immediately showed interest in offering support and care for Annalisa and promised to get her medical attention for her infected eye. The mother believed him and allowed him to take the child to stay with him.
He went to Cavite, south of Manila, but when his sister noticed and remarked the strange intimacy he lavished on Annalisa, he left Cavite and went to Manila, and then to Orani, Bataan and later to a remote village in Kawag, Subic Bay. The child was brought from place to place and sexually exploited. In Kawag, he continued his sexual slavery of Annalisa until she was traumatized and pregnant.
Such was the shame and secrecy among the neighbors the news of this serial rapist abusing his own daughter was not reported. The pregnancy was kept a secret and only became known when she gave birth to a baby girl on May 2, 2015. The news began to leak out. But soon after the birth of Rosa, incredibly the father again abused Annalisa on May 16, 2015.
Finally one month after the birth of Rosa a member of the community who had attended a Preda seminar on child protection and reporting, saw it as his/her duty to get help and did it. That good person saved Annalisa and her baby.
As soon as it was reported by text message, immediately Preda Social Workers went to the rescue with the municipal social worker, police and Barangay officials of Subic Town. Annalisa was rescued and brought to the Preda home for girls. Someone tipped off the rapist father and he escaped. In the Preda home for girls, she and baby Rosa were given all the help, support and needs for a healthy life of dignity.
Traumatized though she was, this brave and courageous girl began to tell her story when she slowly realized that she was free of her rapist. She realized that what he had done was a heinous crime against her and that he would be charged with crimes and go to prison for life and could never abuse her again. It took several weeks before Annalisa could smile.
It seemed that she never had anything to smile about in her hard life but now she is surrounded by caring staff and children wanting to hold and nurse Rosa. She has the courage and determination to be the best mother she can and has bonded with her child Rosa. Even for one so young, she has done her best to breast-feed her baby. She has found a new life of freedom and happiness perhaps for the first time ever. Rosa is happy also.
There are thousands more in our community who cannot tell of their ordeal and suffering. They are children threatened with dire punishment and even death if they reveal it. Victims of human trafficking, many of them minors, are trapped in the brothels and sex slavery in their homes or the houses of relatives. But while it is important to research and talk about the problem, yet it is a moral duty to help these unfortunate people.
That is the heart of Christianity, to help the stranger and save them from hurt and harm. It’s a challenge we should take up. Going to church with a pure heart is a great, beautiful virtuous and spiritual experience for some but what we do afterwards to help suffering humanity is what counts most.