Rescuing the sexually abused

There are still opportunities for improvement in rescuing children who are victims of sexual abuse. But foster care houses have done a lot already and need our help.

When children who are sexually abused are removed from those who exploit them and taken to safe houses or foster care centers, they are said to have been “rescued” from sexual abuse.

When rescue happens, the work of rehabilitation of the victims — which is the harder part — begins.

But first, let me share with you a story about the rescue of adults engaged in sex for pay. It involves a street walker who, along with others like her, was rounded up one night by the police, taken to the station and charged with vagrancy. The nuns who were with the police were very happy and proud of the fact that they have contributed to the girls’ rescue.

However, the girls themselves were far from happy; in fact, they were angry. They said, “We don’t have to be rescued; this is our livelihood, and we earn money without us doing violence to anybody.

Besides, if we are taken to the police station, the police will just take their turn abusing us; so, what is the point in rounding us up and taking away our livelihood?”

This is the difficult area of rescuing those who just do not have any source of livelihood except prostitution. They do it voluntarily because of reasons, like they need income to feed their families; they are breadwinners.

Our subject in this article is primarily the rescue of sexually abused children who commit sexual acts under the direction of somebody else, such as an older brother, an aunt, or even their own parents.

These people justify what they do partly by saying that children are supposed to help their parents financially and therefore justifiable.

Children, however, are a totally different genre. You are robbing them of their future if you participate in their being sexually abused at a tender age. Studies show that adults with mental or psychological problems are often those who as children were sexually or physically abused. How do you rescue such children?

One thing for sure is that when these children are rescued by, say, combined elements of the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation and Department of Social Welfare and Development, they need to be removed from their abusers and the environments where the abuses took place. To accomplish this, the rescued children are invariably taken to foster care centers or safe houses where they may stay not just months, but at times years in rehabilitation.

The rehabilitation may consist in immersing the children in comprehensive trauma-informed after-care services, including medical and psychological assistance, basic education and various motivational programs that will make the children socialize better and want to learn and study more. Some foster care centers even have tie-ups with the Department of Education so that, while in foster care, the children could graduate up to the 12th grade.

The problem of who to return the children to after receiving rehabilitation services in the foster care houses is a difficult one to tackle. While it is best that the children complete their reintegration into normal society in a family-based environment, difficult choices need to be made if those who abused the children were their own parents or relatives in the first place. It is for this reason that foster care houses explore the possibilities of adoptive placements.

Admittedly, there are still opportunities for improvement in rescuing children who are victims of sexual abuse. But foster care houses have done a lot already and need our help.

A quick look at the Internet showed me that NGOs involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of sexually abused children, like the C.U.R.E. Foundation in Cebu, are bravely facing the challenges posed by, among others, lack of volunteers and limited budgets.

But they go on, and if by chance there are civic groups out there or corporations that may want to allot part of their corporate social responsibility programs to the rehab of sexually abused children, I earnestly urge them to contact these NGOs immediately and offer their invaluable help.


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