By Fr. Shay Cullen
Jessica Mary, along with thirty other recovering child survivors of sexual abuse and human trafficking, marched down the streets of Olongapo City on International Women’s Day. They carried a banner that declared “Olongapo City Home of the Most Empowered Women in the World for Human Rights.” The teenagers had the courage and commitment to take to the streets and declare that they were survivors with a cause. As Jessica said, “We join the march so other children will not suffer abuse like us.”
She and the other girls were happy and proud to be part of the march. They said they want to tell the world that it is a serious and heinous crime for adults to have sex with children. This hateful crime is spreading because of inaction by government and the apathy of society in general. The Center for Women’s Resources, a Philippine research group stated recently that 77% of rape victims are children and that an astounding two children are raped every minute. Under-reporting of the crimes is common due to fear, shame and intimidation, and thousands more go unreported.
Preda continues to educate and promote vigilance and prevention of human trafficking and child abuse. It is currently giving workshops and training to the hotel employees of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone to prevent the rise of sex tourism and human trafficking of women and minors.
Government officials are in denial and cover-up the extent of child abuse and human trafficking into the hotels and sex bars of the country. Given the fact that thousands of mayor’s business permits and licenses are given out to sex bars and clubs that are fronts for prostitution, we have to hold these officials liable for all the abuse happening in those brothels. Moral and legal responsibility has to fall on the government officials who allow it. The owners, managers, both foreigners and local Filipinos, think they have the approval of the authorities to exploit and abuse the young people hired as dancers and entertainers.
The failure to protect children is a contradiction of all that Jesus of Nazareth taught about the children being the most important in the Kingdom of God. To accept them is to accept Him, He said. In Matthew 18: 1-8 He stated a most powerful truth that is ignored by all too many. That statement of Jesus is unequivocal. The abuser of children must be brought to justice and receive a just punishment, a millstone should be tied around his neck and he be thrown into the deepest ocean, said Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 18.
Some people persuade children not to complain of sexual abuse and to forgive their abusers especially if it is their own fathers or relatives. This is totally wrong. Before forgiveness, the Gospel calls for the sinner to repent, accept and confess his or her sin, do penance and then ask forgiveness. We cannot idly stand by and wring our hands. We must do all we can to act, speak out, report abuse and get help for the victims.
The only answer to human trafficking is uncompromising law enforcement by a highly trained Filipino-speaking multinational undercover intelligence gathering unit working with a multinational police unit with shared jurisdiction. Speedy justice is what abused women and children need, and legislation is needed for this.
Columban Fr. Shay Cullen lives and works in the Philippines.