Disclaimer: the story below is of fictional nature, yet inspired by a true story narrated by Father Shay Cullen on the website of PREDA.
Castillejos, Zambales, Philippines. One door is scratched, but the original reddish varnish is still visible. On the right side, a metal doorknob with greasy fingerprints. Of whom? A family, the neighbours say. Two pretty girls of three and five years old, Amihana and Darna, they say. They heard bustle from the inside, only bustle, no one saw anything, no one wants to talk. Yes, one day they saw the young mother hurrying outside, carrying both daughters with her. The pretty little girls seemed not happy, but you know how kids express any small complaint. They were probably playing and the mother made them stop to take them for a daily commission. Yes, that must be it.
That is what the neighbours say. Of one door.
In a recent article dated to 25th July 2019, Father Shay Cullen (founder of PREDA) called upon the alarming numbers of victims of child abuse in the Philippines and urges institutions and society to not deny or cover the truthfulness of the gravity of the situation. From UNICEF and Save The Children reports of 2016 (N.B. there is no national database of child abuse cases), it is estimated that 17% of children experienced sexual violence while growing up, of which 13.7% within the familiar home environment. Additionally, the reports showed that 1.6% boys were sexually forced, while 2.4% girls were sexually assaulted.
Ignoring this horrific phenomenon - Father Shay Cullen says - potentially results in the vast majority of child abuse cases to not being even reported. How can we cure ignorance and address the issue of child abuse in the Philippines? Father Shay Cullen suggests three cornerstones: firstly, institutions shall advocate for preventive education; secondly, there should be e legal and societal immediate procession of sex abusers; thirdly, government should provide safe houses where young victims can rehabilitate and re-enter into society, to experience the joy of life.
These three major steps, proposed by Father Shay Cullen, are our chapters of the PREDA series: a sequence of small informative articles, delving into PREDA’s strategy towards child abuse cases. The aim of this new series is to take a journey, open that one scratched reddish varnish door and face the truth of what may be happening to Amihana and Darna. Which legal instruments protect children on the national and international level? How does the Filipino government prosecute child abusers? Are there differences between foreigners and Filipino criminal perpetrators? Are children supported by legal organs helping them to seek justice? Which other crimes are connected to child abuse? How can victims free themselves from abusive situations and mentally recover? Does the government offer psychological and social services to support the rehabilitation of young victims of child abuse and other forms of violence?
The answers to the questions will be explored in the next articles of the PREDA series, thus don’t forget to check the website if you want to learn more what is the future of Amihana and Darna in the Philippines.