CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 July 2019

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Power of Internet pornography

The fear of punishment and dire threats from the live-in partner of her mother kept 13-year old Sylvia from opening her mouth and saying that she was being repeatedly sexually abused. 

After four months, she could not take it any longer and, thanks to a caring teacher in Subic, she opened up about it after class one day.

“Mam, please I have something to tell you and ask help, but I am afraid.”

“What is it? Come to the counselling room and tell me,” the teacher said.

“Mam, it is Papa Virgel. He is doing things to me and my private parts hurt and he said he will kill me and my four sisters if I tell anyone and never to tell my mama. I am so afraid, I don’t know what to do or who to tell.”

“Didn’t you tell your mama about this?” the teacher asked.

“No Mam, every time I try to say something about papa hurting me, she becomes angry and tells me not to speak and that I am a bad girl to say anything against papa.”

Sylvia began to cry and the tears ran down her face and the good teacher wiped them away.

“Don’t worry, you are doing the right thing to tell me. You are not to blame for what he did to you. I will get help for you. Just go home, tell your mama you are not feeling well and stay at home tomorrow and help will come very soon,” the teacher said.

The teacher had participated in a training-seminar run by the PREDA Anti-Human Trafficking and Human Rights Education team for teachers, parents, village officials and children. She was able to arrange a rescue within hours.

The municipal social workers explained the situation to the mother who was tight-lipped, and angry, protesting that nothing was wrong and her child was lying. Sylvia is now in the PREDA Children’s Home.

The impoverished mother was depending on her live-in partner to provide. He gave them food, provided he could abuse Sylvia. It was food for sex slavery.

A formal report was filed on the police blotter. Sylvia had her medico-legal checkup the next day and it was established there were lacerations, evidence of sexual abuse in a child.

That was in December 2014 and a really sad Christmas for Sylvia, who had been lived with the secret memory and buried pain.

Sylvia made her statement to the female prosecutor. It was credible and accurate as to the time and place of the abuse, and it was established that the suspect, Virgel, was there at those times.

The case went to court, but by the time the judge issued an arrest warrant the suspect had fled. But it did mean that her sisters were safe from abuse, but he has escaped justice and could abuse other children.

Sylvia’s bravery in coming forward saved them. The PREDA paralegal officer passed out calling cards to the neighbours asking them to call if they ever knew where the suspect was.

In January 2016, the phone rang at PREDA. It was the tip-off and the Subic police arrested the abuser of Sylvia and took him into custody.

He is now behind bars and the court case will resume. Justice will hopefully be done and Sylvia is fully recovered and continuing her education and getting high grades.

Sexual abuse of children is growing and spreading in an apparently unstoppable avalanche of child pornography over the Internet and cell phone network. 

In The Philippines, all this is supposed to be banned, filtered and blocked by the service providers under the 2009 Anti-child Pornography Law, a great achievement when it was passed.

But the law is flouted, ignored and even despised as an infringement of freedom of speech or access to the Internet.

This same week, two girls, six- and seven-years-old, who had been sexually abused by their 10-year-old half-brother were rescued.

He had been viewing child pornography on his cellphone, where photos are passed around that distort and damage the children’s self-understanding and prompt them to commit acts of abuse.

Without the strict implementation of the rule of law, society is on the road to perdition and The Philippines could become a nation of abused children. An uncompromising stand has to be taken to prevent more cases like that of Sylvia. They must be saved.

         • Father Shay Cullen
www.preda.org