The Challenge to Protect Children in 2019
Fr. Shay Cullen
The world in 2019 has to wake up to the prevalence of child sexual abuse and everyone has to act more decisively about it. Parents, politicians and citizens must be aware that this is a horrendous crime and all must do much more to prevent it and rescue and cure the child victims and bring the perpetrators to justice, convict and jail them.
Sexual abuse of young girls and boys is being revealed as commonplace. This is the dark dirty secret of depraved men and some women. They prey on children to get sexual satisfaction for their twisted often-brutal sexual desires. But the complacency of society and strong liberal trends in human relationships among adults should not give any opening for the tolerance or trivializations of sexual molestation, acts of abuse or rape of anyone.
Child sexual abuse is not the act of a few depraved men, called monsters, hiding in alleyways. This profile of a child abuser is wrong. The abuser or rapist (mostly men) is an outwardly, friendly, apparently kind, smiling, generous but manipulative person and is a secretly dangerous predator. No one profession seems to be beyond the acts of sexual abuse of children and young girls.
Even biological fathers, brothers, cousins, grandfathers, live-in partners, family friends, boyfriends, a cardinal, bishops, priests, doctors, professors, teachers, laborers, sports coaches, swimming instructors and even presidents themselves abuse children. The Philippine president admitted recently that he too fell into temptation when he was a teenager and sexually abused a maid when she was sleeping, causing outrage, and the revelation is denied as true by the government press office.
People in general treat these acts of abuse with too light an attitude of tolerance and resignation perhaps but the value of human dignity is greatly diminished everywhere by every single act of abuse. This leads to the degradation of society and the descent of the human race into a child-abusing species. Humanity itself is tarnished and degraded.
No other species is known to abuse their own offspring other than our cousins- the chimpanzees- and this is rare of them. They know no better and do not have reason. They cannot exercise thinking and do not have a moral sense of right and wrong, good and bad, true and false. Nor do they have free will to choose good or bad. They follow their instincts.
But we humans do have reason and free will to choose to do good or bad and that’s what makes us human. Indifference, apathy, inaction, leaving it to others and doing nothing ourselves is an intolerable silence. That can be looking the other way when we know of a child having been abused because we are afraid to speak out and afraid to challenge both the abuser and the system that allows it. Child abuse happens with great frequency from bullying, physical and verbal abuse to sexual abuse and child rape. In many cases the authorities and society ignore it. Even parents ignore the abuse of their own children at times when it is in their interests to do so.
An 11-year old child, Shane, is a victim of abuse and her traumatic experience began when her stepfather began to hurt her physically and threaten her with a knife. He began to sexually molest her while her mother looked on. Her mother said, “Daddy is just being affectionate to you.” Shane resisted at first but was overpowered and forced to suffer the pain and fear.
She ran to the streets to escape. Whenever she was brought back to the house by relatives or the authorities to be abused again, no one asked her why she was unhappy at home. Had they done so, she may have revealed the sexual abuse she endured. Preda Foundation social workers heard about the case and rescued the child and she is recovering at the Preda Home in Subic, Zambales. Do we have a model to exemplify the terrible hurt and suffering endured by the child victims? The institutional Church has recognized only two child victims with sainthood, martyrdom, and beatification as child victims who resisted attempted rape and were murdered.
Saint Maria Goretti (October 16, 1890 – July 6, 1902) was a poor 11-year-old girl living with her family in the house of Giovanni Serenelli. Her father died when she was nine years old. The son of Serenelli, Alessandro, sexually assaulted her one day when all the family were in the fields working at the harvest. He threatened her with a knife but she resisted and he stabbed her repeatedly. She died soon after in the hospital. Forty-eight years later, in1950, she was made a saint. She had fought her would be rapist and died for it.
Anna Kalesarova was a 16-year old girl in Slovakia. In 1944, she was in her home when a Russian soldier from the occupying army entered the house and sexually assaulted her. She resisted the attempted rape and the soldier shot her in the head. On 1 September 2018, Pope Francis declared her a “Martyr” and “Blessed.” These young girls are not the only ones to resist being sexually assaulted and raped. There are many brave and courageous children today fighting back against their rapists. Some are killed by their would-be rapists and some survive.
So we can say that all the children who resist being raped are emulating Maria and Anna and can share in their sainthood and martyrdom as declared by the Church. They are equally virtuous and courageous. They too can be considered children worthy of sainthood as Jesus himself said they are the most important in the world. To accept them is to accept Him (Matt.18:1- 8). To abuse them is to abuse Him. Child abuse is a despicable crime. There has to be continuous protests at every incident, a clamor for justice and a complete end to tolerance and indifference.