[People] The Power of the Innocent | by Fr. Shay Cullen

The Power of the Innocent
Fr. Shay Cullen

They are the brave, they are the strong, they are the empowered children that, at very young ages, some just six years old, stand up to their rapists and abusers, and with courage, bravely recount to the court of justice the wicked, sinful and criminal acts done to them.

The sexual abuse of children is as common as drinking coffee but the public does not know that there are thousands of abusers seeking out children every day. No child is ever totally safe. Anyone could be an abuser. Child abuse is a secret hidden crime done with threats, intimidation, and pressure on the child never to tell anyone or else something bad will happen to them or their siblings or relatives. The rapist will instill fear in the child with threats and he or she controls the child with fear ensuring silence.

With the passing of a new law setting the age of consent at 16 years old, any sexual act with a minor 16 years and below will be statutory rape carrying a life sentence. Children just need a friend they can trust that they can tell. Convictions are becoming more common in the Olongapo City regional trial family court.

Millions of child survivors never tell anyone about it especially if it is done by a member of their own family. The most common perpetrator of child sexual abuse is a biological father, step-father or live-in partner of the child’s mother. Incest- that horrible word, for a horrific criminal act- is becoming ever more common.

Standing against all this abuse and proposing and campaigning to have new and improved child protection laws and helping the child survivors to heal, testify and get justice is the Preda Foundation.

The Foundation is celebrating its 48th anniversary this week. It is celebrating the dedicated work of the wonderful, committed social workers, therapists and staff and board members of the Preda Foundation. Together with the donors and organizational friends and partners, that makes the extraordinary work possible.

They are saving, empowering and healing abuse victims/survivors and fighting for justice every day for the children and youth that have suffered and survived human rights violations.

The staff have never given up their fight for justice against powerful, well-connected child abusers and despite severe threats and opposition from the association of sex bar owners, human traffickers and corrupt officials over the past years. Over the past 23 or so years, the Preda team has helped abused children to be empowered and to testify and win more than 400 convictions of child traffickers and child rapists. That is an average of 17 convictions a year.

The most recent victories by Preda children were on 14 February. There was great joy when the words of the promulgation were read out, guilty as charged. The convicted step-father had sexually assaulted and made lascivious acts on Anna, 13 years old. He was given a life sentence. Another child abuser, a barangay tanod from Subic town, was also convicted on Feb 14 for rape and lascivious conduct. He, too, was given a life sentence. The judge in her wisdom gave full credence to the clear and direct and unambiguous testimonies of the victims.

More legal battles are on the way and these children (not their real names) have now filed their cases against their abusers. One, Rosi (now 13 years old) was blindfolded by her mother and sold to men to be raped. The mother likely videotaped the abuse and sold it online. Her father also sexually assaulted her. Rosi is a victim that found the courage and resilience to bring a case against her abusive parents and a rapist. The mothers of children are also participating in the crimes especially online sexual abuse. In her affidavit, this brave 13-year-old child who was sexually abused from the age of 10 tells of her worst experience.

“My mother started pimping me on my 10th birthday. It happened on March 5, 2018. My mom told me to go into my room. She was smiling and holding a handkerchief so I thought she had a surprise for me. She made me sit on the bed, and blindfolded me, and said, “All right, Rosi, mama will just be here.” I said, “Okay.” Later, I felt four hands touching my breasts, my vagina, my hair, and my whole body. They were just quiet. Then, I felt one of them put something inside my vagina and when it was inside my vagina, it vibrated. I felt so sick, I couldn’t think straight. I was dizzy and then fainted in shock.”

“When I woke up, my vagina and whole body still hurt. I saw that there was blood in the bed and there was viscous fluid in my body. They repeated this many times, especially on Sundays. I couldn’t report it right away because I was scared and my mother would beat me if I didn’t follow her orders. The last incident of pimping and raping me happened on October 2, 2021, a Saturday. As usual, Mom let me into the room. She said, “Don’t shout or cry.” I already knew what would happen next so I was scared. She blindfolded me, I felt like crying but I held back because I didn’t want to be beaten. She carried me to bed, sat me down, and told me to stay quiet…….Then she said, ‘All right, stay there, I’m leaving your room now.’

“Then, I heard my mother talking to two men. I recognized the voice of one of the men. It was my father’s. Mother said to them, “There she is, she is in bed. You can now do to her what you want to do.” The men continued to rape and abuse her with a vibrator many times.

Then she met her grandmother and aunt and told them. They immediately got help at Preda and Rosi was saved. She was given welcome, comfort, support, affirmation, shelter, protection, and days later she started therapy. She is now empowered and ready to testify against her abusers. They have gone into hiding.

Another child, call her Julie, was raped by her half-brother when she was seven years old. She is now 17. She was also raped by two uncles. The abusers are all from the paternal side of the family. With the legal help of Preda she is going after them all.

Another child, Maria from Leyte, was raped by her older brother. She escaped and went to Bataan and stayed with a foster family unrelated to her. There, the foster father made sexual advances. Then, she was raped by the son-in-law of her foster family. She, too, has filed her case against them.

There are 39 child victims in the care of Preda Foundation and most of them have filed their cases or have testified. Justice is coming to many rapists of these children. May there be more anniversaries to celebrate the victories, the freedom and the happiness of starting a new life free from fear and abuse for the Preda children.

http://www.preda.org

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