• Hear the cries of victims of sexual abuse

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    FR. SHAY CULLEN, SSC

    The shocking and almost unbelievable disclosures in recent years throughout the developed world and most recently in Australia at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse leave people shocked and staggering at the revelations.

    The enquiry is looking into the response or the lack of it by churches of all denominations, sports clubs, institutions of education and the military to child sexual abuse in their organizations. The disclosures on the frequency of the sexual assaults and the lack of response to help the victims and bring the perpetrators to justice are hard for ordinary people and especially Catholics to accept and understand. Who will listen to their cries?

    The most glaring wrong-doing in past years has been within the institutional Catholic Church. It has been the wrong practice of some bishops to conceal and cover up the crimes of clergy, teachers and church workers. As many as 1,888 victims have declared they were abused by clergy. Hundreds more have not been able to come forward and report the abuse done to them.

    Although the Catholic Church has dramatically changed its practice and is acting to prevent and report to the authorities sexual abuse of children, recent history has left its painful legacy. The lives of the victims have been greatly affected and many continue to suffer. Hundreds have committed suicide as a result of the abuse.

    According to The Guardian reporting the work of the Commission: “Gail Furness SC said in her opening address that a survey revealed 4,444 allegations of incidents of abuse between January 1980 and February 2015 were made to Catholic Church authorities. Ms Furness said 60 per cent of all abuse survivors attending private royal commission sessions reported sexual abuse at faith-based institutions. Of those, almost two-thirds reported abuse in Catholic institutions. The Royal Commission’s report found of the 1,880 alleged perpetrators from within the Catholic Church, 572 were priests.

    Ms Furness described the victims’ accounts as “depressingly similar.” “Children were ignored or worse, punished,” she said. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious (figures) were moved .The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past. “Documents were not kept, or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover-ups.” The average age of the victims at the time they were allegedly abused was 10 for girls and 11 for boys.

    The full report will be released later this year and revelations about abuse in the military and sports institutions will be revealed. Recent revelations and disclosure by football players in the UK who went public revealed how they were victims of sexual abuse by coaches and others during childhood training.

    Studies by David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center and Professor of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire, show that one in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. Self-report studies show that 20 percent of adult females and five to 10 percent of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident. Research conducted by the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately one in six boys and one in four girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.

    In the Philippines, there are few reliable statistics available but the Preda Home for Abused Girls has helped hundreds of children some as young as 8 years old to overcome the hurt, pain and anger they felt at being abused by releasing it in cry and scream therapy. In the emotional release therapy, they can freely express all their pent up and buried pain and anguish. It pours out in the padded room where they scream and shout and cry and confront their abusers. They punch and beat and kick the cushions as they release the pent up hatred and anger at being abused.

    “Why did you do it to me, why? Why? I hate you, I hate you!” one 15-year-old screamed at her abuser. Another 14-year-old released her anger at her mother. “You let him do it to me, you did not stop him,” she cried out. Another 12-year old girl screamed with her lungs bursting and shouted at her mother. “You did not believe me, you told me to say nothing, why did you not help me and stop him?” She screamed. And it goes on every day.

    The 36 girls will have their therapy and scream and shout similar anger and hurt. As it pours out it makes your hair stand up and your body cringe with every new scream that cuts through the air with feelings of anger, hurt pain and anguish.

    They cry and scream and then when finished they reveal one by one to the group and therapist what they relived in their Emotional Release Therapy. They are able to reveal for the first time those that had abused them. They are strengthened and empowered after every session. They find the courage to testify against their abusers in a court of law and sometimes win convictions.

    What the churches and other authorities, abusers, rapists and parents do not want to recognize is the pain the victims continue to endure all their lives. They do not admit that the emotional wounds that they inflict on the children they abuse or allow to be abused, remain with the children all their lives. It is only when we see the individual cases and hear their deepest emotional experiences can we get a glimpse of the suffering they endure during and long after the acts of sexual and physical abuse. The lack of justice is another barrier to healing. Victims are frequently not believed and even they are blamed for allowing the abuse to happen. That is the greatest injustice of all.

    shaycullen@preda.org

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