Child abuse in all its cruel and insidious forms is the scourge of our society. It always has been and always will be unless more good people stop plugging their ears, turning away and denying that we are surrounded by pain-filled victims and survivors. Hundreds of thousands of secret suffering children and adults who have been sexually abused, raped and exploited live with the shame and pain but have been too scared to ever talk about it. They should be given the opportunity to express their buried hidden feelings and bring them out and talk about them.
“We must talk or die,” says renowned concert pianist James Edward Rhodes in a recent program of HardTalk on the BBC and available on Youtube. He talked about how he wrote in his autobiography about being repeatedly sexually and physically abused by his teacher from the age of six years old.
Another teacher at his school in North London knew of the abuse but failed to report it until many years later when James gave an interview and mentioned the repeated rape he suffered at school. The man was traced and arrested but died before he could be brought to trial. James tells of the harrowing ordeal that damaged him and made him suicidal, drove him to extremes of drug-taking and many times he was confined in mental wards. It was his return to classical music at 28 years old as a pianist that saved him. Today, he is a famous classical pianist but continues to talk about his childhood trauma and tells all who will listen those victims must be listened to and helped.
Reporting of child sexual abuse must be mandatory. In the United Kingdom, it is not and it should be for all. When a member of the public knows or sees evidence of such a crime, they ought be required by law to report it or face the consequences of being part of a cover up of a crime against a child. In some countries, it is mandatory to report such knowledge of abuse.
We are all mandated by conscience and moral obligation, if not always by law, to report child abuse and pressure the authorities to act on behalf of the abused, trafficked and sexually exploited children. These children must and can be helped, saved and healed with the care and support of therapy.
The majority of children at the Preda Center are sexually abused teenagers and victims of human trafficking under the age of 18. The sex offenders are their own biological father, the live-in partner of their mother or family friends or relatives. Others are abused in the community. They need shelter, protection, care, and therapy.
The abused children are threatened not to report or ever to reveal the abuse done to them or something bad will happen to them or to their parents or brothers or sisters. They live in perpetual fear of exposure and shame. They are persuaded that there is great shame in what was done to them and made to feel that they are to blame for it and ought to be punished if it is found out. So a culture of silence surrounds the practice of child sexual abuse. Adults perpetuate this and seldom talk about or report abuse.
When the Preda social worker was informed of a suspected heinous crime against Angel, a five-year old child in a remote village on Subic Bay, they responded immediately last October 2017. The little child was crying frequently and complained to her grandmother of vaginal pain. When the child was asked what had happened, she said her papa had molested her. The grandmother was shocked and asked her neighbor for help what to do.
The social workers were informed and the child rescued and brought to the Preda Home for Girls. The child, Angel, is very small for her age. She was in a traumatized condition, in a daze and unable to relate to any one at first. But after a few days of being held and hugged and fussed over by the other children and staff, she became more alert and aware of her surroundings and began to hug the other children, feeling their love and affection.
She is recovering strongly and is joining the other younger children in the play therapy room and enjoying games and making friends. Angel is one more abused child that has found rest and recovery after neighbors reported the suspected abuse. For these children and adults, too, there is the Emotional Expression Release Therapy (EERT). Victims of abuse tend to bury the memories inside. They feel threatened and fear to tell others and bring it out. The feelings are buried inside causing life-long stress and trauma and damaging their personalities.
The girls freely choose to have the release therapy in a padded, sound-proof room and are encouraged and helped to cry, shout and scream out the anger and hatred. They feel the pain inflicted by their abuser as they confront and challenge him but it is frequently released and they are free. They are given support and comfort by the therapist.
After several sessions they become strong, empowered and self-confident and many will testify against their abusers in court without fear. This is a therapy we all could do with and emotional expression and release therapy healing clinics ought to be set up and one day become common healing centers. Children need to be rescued from their abusers, protected and healed and their perpetrators brought to justice. All of us must do it.
Rev. Shay Cullen is a co-founder of Preda.org - a nonprofit dedicated to the welfare of children.