CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 25 May 2019

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The courageous testimony of brave young people

Makati, Metro Manila. The testimony of the five young boys in a Makati conference room on the 37th floor of a business tower was shocking and harrowing. Anyone reading the affidavits of the victims of Douglas Slade or listening to the sexual exploitation done by this grossly overweight, self-indulgent convicted British pedophile would cause anyone to cringe with disgust and revulsion. 
 
But the courageous and brave young boys who took on the challenge of giving testimony against Slade in October, in a historic first case of Filipino young people, suing their abuser in a court of law in the United Kingdom is unique. 
 
They have to be highly respected and admired. They took the risk of going public on a video-link conferencing camera fed into the British court in London and into the prison where Slade also sat in front of a camera. They described how, when they were around 10- to 14-years-old, Slade had lured them into his house, which was built beside their school and the boys passed his door.
 
In other accounts, they came out of the school by what was known as the “magic gate” because sweets and candies would sometimes be thrown there and they would then see Slade on his balcony calling down to them to come and get more. 
 
He offered to give them money for cleaning in his house and doing gardening jobs. He then gave them money and chocolates to touch him sexually and later for him to sexually abuse them until he had them under his control and dependent on him for money. 
 
Slade was arrested and put on trial but he allegedly bribed his way out of it with the connections of slick lawyers to police and prosecutors, and the connivance of the notoriously corrupt system that allowed him to continue his abuse of other children. This is perhaps the greater crime.
 
The boys, now older, realised how Slade had controlled them and they wanted to redeem their dignity and self-respect. Slade had accused them of doing it for money. When the judge asked Josh (not his real name) why he was pursuing case, Josh responded strongly telling the judge in an agitated voice that when Slade was arrested in Angeles City in 2014 and appeared on television he, Josh, was tagged by his school mates and friends as a Douglas Boy. 
 
“They shunned me, they thought I had a disease and they bullied me continually. I dropped out of school, my life was useless. I wanted justice for Slade for what he did to me when I was much younger,” he said in Tagalog as translated by the court interpreter.
 
Ralf (not his real name), when questioned by the judge answered defiantly, “He must answer and be accountable for what he did to me. I don’t want money, just justice, ” he said in Tagalog.
 
The youngest boy, call him Jasper, described in strong terms to the hushed court how one day Slade tried to abduct him when he was going to the Christmas party at the school. “He grabbed me and held me, but I bit his arm hard and he let me go.”
 
They described in detail the atrocious sexual acts Slade did to them and persuaded them that it was normal. They said to the court that Slade had two guns in a drawer in his bedroom. That scared them; he might harm them if they did not do what he said.
 
Slade created an atmosphere of menace as well as entrapment and enticement. After each boy had given testimony and emerged one by one, they showed both strain and relief. “I feel I won back myself, he had taken it away,” Ralf said.
 
When Josh emerged, he told me outside: “It’s over, I didn’t think I could do it but I did. I waited years to tell how he hurt me, how he disturbed my life.” He and the others said, speaking Tagalog although their native language is Kapampangan. 
 
They are just a few of the estimated several hundred small boys that Slade allegedly abused over 25 years in the Philippines. It’s incredibly difficult for anyone sexually abused as a child to bare all the intimate abusive sexual acts done to them in a court of law. No wonder there are so few complainants coming forward to accuse their abusers. Fear, intimidation and control restrain most. Most are psychologically and emotionally unable to do so.
 
This has given the more powerful and dominant abusers free rein to continue their aggressive sexual violence many times over with impunity. Sexual violence is an act of domination and power by one human over another weaker and vulnerable person. 
 
An adult sexually abusing a child is most abhorrent and they deserve the symbolic millstone tied around their neck and they be drowned in the deepest ocean (Matthew 18:1-8).
 
More people are finding the encouragement and strength to speak out these days when the truth is emerging about the great secret of how widespread sexual violence and abuse is. 
 
The #MeToo movement is gaining momentum. It is hoped that the days when the sexual predators and perpetrators will be exposed and forced to admit and be held accountable for the sexual violence done to innocent children. 
 
That goes for those who cover up crimes against victims and have knowledge of the abuse and instead of speaking out and calling for justice they protect the abusers. 
 
Those in the justice system, the Church, and society at large are accessories to the crime and their silence in effect gives approval and consent. 
 
The Slade case is an example where perseverance is necessary if a notorious child sexual predator is to be stopped and brought to justice.
 
 
Father Shay Cullen 
www.preda.org