The great and the good, saving children

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FR. SHAY CULLEN, SSC

It was the Preda hotline for reporting sexual abuse that saved four children from sexual and physical abuse. The message came from an anonymous reporter, who tipped that Geraldine, 13, was being sexually abused by her grandfather. A Preda Foundation social worker contacted her counterpart in the local government and she, trained by Preda, knew exactly what to do. She went to find the child in her school and had a heart to heart chat with her in a private room.

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The child had someone she could trust and revealed all that happened to her, confirming the sexual abuse by the grandfather and her uncle who was still a teenager. She said her elder sister was also abused. The cruel grandfather had continually beaten her younger sister and brother. Their mother knew of the abuse, but did nothing. Their mother had separated from her father, who disappeared, and left them with the grandfather. She was too poor to support them. This was the cost of a broken home and the abandonment of children by their parents.

The municipal social worker immediately took the four children into custody as allowed by law and entrusted them to the Preda Home for Girls. The mother was found and she signed a custody agreement allowing the children to be taken care of in the Preda Home. The girls were taken to the clinic for a legal-medical examination. The wounds of the two girls revealed sexual abuse.

A case of rape and abusive acts were filed against the grandfather and teenage uncle. On July 17, the court issued an arrest warrant and it was served by the police with the help of Preda senior staff. The grandfather was jailed to await trial. The teenager uncle was ordered by the court to be sent to rehabilitation.

The rescue and the recovery and pursuit of justice for the three girls and their small brother is just one more successful service to help abused children. What if there was no such intervention? The children would continue to be victims and not survivors.

There are as many as 40 children presently in the Preda Home for Girls, happily freed from the power of their abusers and are receiving therapy and education as well as a childhood so long denied them. The early reporting of child abuse is very important. The child, in care and with proper therapy, counseling, and a caring community will recover quickly. Then justice will be done as the child becomes empowered, testifying in court against her abusers.

Otherwise, they just grow up holding on to the buried pain of the terrible fearful memories of what they cruelly experienced. I wrote about that last week and the therapy that releases them from the pain and empowers the children to testify. Getting justice is the final closure for the survivor of child sexual abuse.

We can see that there is a culture of concealment, denial, cover-up. Even society tries to deny the survivors justice through statutes of limitation. These deny the victim or survivor the right to get justice. In Germany, hundreds of former members of a famous boys choir recently have come forward after many years of silence to voice their complaints of physical and sexual abuse. But according to German law, it is too late to initiate legal action.

Children have been abused by individuals, institutions and by the culture of silence in society that forbade such complaints to be aired in public. People in positions of power, influence, and authority were not to be accused, challenged, and confronted. They enjoy impunity and they make the laws. It is the same in all countries. Only now there is the encouragement and support given to victims to complain and a shameful history of abuse is being exposed to a horrified public.

German law allows for criminal prosecution only within 10 years of the alleged victim turning 18. The statute of limitations for pursuing financial compensation through a civil suit is only three years. After that period there is no recourse. There is a move in Germany to extend the time from when one can take legal action against alleged abusers. Bamberg Archbishop Ludwig Schick claims that he is for a limit of 30 years within which a victim could bring a legal action. Bavarian Justice Minister Beate Merk has also called for change. “If it were up to me, Germany wouldn’t have any statute of limitations at all, like in Switzerland,” he said.

Having no statute of limitation is a deterrent too for abusers when they know they could be charged anytime. They should live with that possibility. In the Philippines, a complaint of sexual abuse can be filed within 20 years after the abuse happened.

But prevention is the greatest and most important action we can take. Child abusers will always be lurking, preying, and waiting. Human nature is corrupt and twisted. Child sexual abuse is mostly done by relatives, in the home, and then by neighbors and people in authority. We have to teach children to run and tell someone they trust and to overcome fear and get help. We need more hotlines and community education on the rights of the child and the need for adults to report and protect children. Dial or text to the Preda hotline 09175324453.

shaycullen@gmail.com
www.preda.org

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