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martedì 14 marzo 2017

The resilience of abused children

Women are the greatest survivors, the most resilient and the most abused. Much of it starts in childhood and they carry it all their lives.
Angel is a 13-year old girl, still very much a child, needing attention, care, protection therapy, education and love of a family. She was in the play therapy room of the Preda home for abused children laughing happily, playing with the group of other children some as young as 11 and 12 years old. They were sharing toys, making jigsaw puzzles, hugging dolls and reading picture books.

Angel and these other children- Joy, Beth, Anna- and many others had their childhood stolen from them and all their basic human rights were brutally violated by their own relatives and neighbors. They will grow to be strong women, empowered and resilient to face the world but they will be scarred for life.

In their physical bodies they were no longer children but already developing as women long before their psychological age. The theft of a normal happy childhood is the greatest of crimes especially when it is the result of multiple acts of sexual abuse by relatives and neighbors. That is what has happened to these children and another 35 in the Preda Foundation's home for abused children and many more in the Philippines and worldwide.

In the first three months of 2016, as many as 2,147 cases of child abuse were reported to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), more than one-fourth of which was of a sexual nature. In 2015 there were 4,374 child abuse cases reported, showing that there is a dramatic increase in the sexual abuse of children.

The spread of child pornography on the Internet and smart phones is one cause and the Philippine National Telecommunication Commission with close ties with the Internet Server Providers (ISPs) does not properly or fully obey or implement the law that orders them to block such illegal images. They are a big part of this evil trade of children being abused. The few reported cases of sexual abuse of children are just a tip of a great iceberg of cold abuse and neglect. There is entrenched cover up, denial, lying and fear that prevent the reporting of child sexual abuse and the vast majority of victims get no support, help or therapy.

Women have to live with the reality that the vast majority of child abuse cases are not reported and the victims have to live with the pain for the rest of their lives. They are traumatized and endure that into adulthood. One in every three children-girls is sexually abused worldwide. One study says one woman is raped every two minutes. Violence against women starts very early in this male-dominated world where the abuse of women and children is so common and greatly ignored. Worldwide as many as 100,000 children are trafficked and lured into the sex tourist business every year and an estimated 350,000 young Filipino women are exploited as sex-workers at a young age. 

Local governments giving permits to the sex bars and brothels support and encourage woman exploitation and abuse. It makes the role of women to be satisfiers of the sexual demands of men. The sex bar in turn induces Filipino men to abuse underage girls and then sexually abuse their own children.

Thousand more young girls are trafficked abroad to Southeast-Asian countries as sex workers. They are frequently exploited and abused and many are in heavy debt bondage and others are not paid. So long as any woman is enslaved like this, can anyone of us be at rest or silent?

The violence they suffer cause deep psychological damage, physical hurt and subject them to venereal diseases and HIV-AIDS. The UN reported that less than 40 per cent of the women who experienced violence sought help of any sort. How much more children who are being abused and never get heard. 

Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show that:

1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;

Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;

During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;

Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;

Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.

International Women's Day is useful to bring the issue to the attention of the governments and the wider public. There has been improvements and change but too little and too late for millions of women worldwide. What is needed is a sustained campaign to challenge the male dominance, the police, the abuse, exclusion, and the cover-up, the complacency and the gross inequality suffered by many women who have been abused as children. It is their resilience and courage than has carried the world.

Fr Shay Cullen writes on the resilience of abused children and women March 10, 2017

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