The fear of punishment and dire threats from the live-in partner of her mother kept 13-year old Sylvia from opening her mouth and telling that she was being repeatedly sexually abused. After four months of repeated heinous acts, she could not take and endure it anymore and thanks to a good, caring teacher in Subic, Zambales she opened it up after class one day.
“Mam, please I have something to tell you and ask help but I am afraid.”
“What is it? Come to the counseling room and tell me,” she said.
“Mam, it is Papa Virgel. He is doing things to me and my private parts hurt and he said he will kill me and my four sisters if I tell anyone and never to tell my Mama. I am so afraid, I don’t know what to do or who to tell, where to run. I want to run away.”
“Didn’t you tell your mama about this?” she asked
“No Mam, every time I try to say something about Papa hurting me, she becomes angry and tells me not to speak and that I am a bad girl to say anything against Papa.”
Sylvia began to cry and the tears ran down her face and the good teacher wiped them away.
“Don’t worry, you are doing the right thing to tell me. You are not to blame for what he did to you I will get help for you. Just go home, tell your mama you are not feeling well and stay at home tomorrow and help will come very soon.”
The teacher had participated in one of the numerous training-seminars of the Preda anti-human trafficking and human rights education team for teachers, parents, village officials and children and knew where to get help and protection for Sylvia. The teacher contacted the child help hotline of Preda Foundation and immediately, Marlyn, the paralegal officer and social workers arranged to rescue the child.
Within hours, they moved to the rescue and picked up the municipal social worker and went to the house of the child that same day. They explained the situation to the mother who was tight-lipped, angry and protested that nothing was wrong and her child was lying but she had no option but to allow Sylvia to go with the social workers into care at the Preda Home for Girls. Without this place of safety, protection and healing, she would be hurt and abused by her rapist and by her non-supportive, angry mother.The impoverished mother was depending on her live-in partner to provide. He gave them food provided he could abuse Sylvia. It was food given in exchange for sex slavery.
She was brought to the Preda Home for abused children and Marlyn, the paralegal officer, filed the formal report with the police on the blotter as it is called. Sylvia had her medico-legal check up the next day and it was established there were lacerations, evidence of sexual abuse in a child.
That was in December 2014 and a very sad Christmas for Sylvia and the hundreds of thousands of children abused daily all over the county and the world and who get no help. They have to live with the secret memory and buried pain within all their lives.
Sylvia made her statement to the lady prosecutor that was credible and accurate as to time and place of the abuse and it was established that the suspect Virgel was there at those times .The case went to court and by the time the judge issued an arrest warrant the suspect had already fled. It meant that the other sisters of Sylvia were safe from abuse by the accused but he has escaped justice and could abuse other children.
Sylvia’s brave act coming forward to tell the truth had saved them. Marlyn, the Preda paralegal officer, passed out calling cards to the neighbors asking them to call if they ever knew where the suspect was.
It was not until this past week, January 2016 that the phone rang at the Preda Center and Marlyn was there to answer it. That was the tip-off she was waiting for. Immediately, she called the Subic Police Station and with the Preda rescue vehicle picked up two police and went to the hideout of the rapist of Sylvia and took him into custody. He is now behind bars and the court case will resume. Justice will hopefully be done and many more children will be safe from his heinous crime of child rape. Sylvia is fully recovered and continuing her education and getting high grades.
The sexual abuse of children is growing and spreading in an apparently unstoppable avalanche of child pornography over the internet and cell phone network. In the Philippines all this is supposed to be banned, filtered and blocked by the server providers under the provisions of the 2009 Anti-child Pornography Law, a great achievement when it was passed. The law is flouted, disrespected, ignored and even despised as infringement of freedom of speech or access to the internet.
This same week as the arrest of Virgel, Preda social workers rescued two girls, six and seven years old. They have been sexually abused by their 10-year old half-brother. He apparently was viewing child pornography on the cellphone where photos are passed around that distort and damage the children’s self-understanding and prompt them to commit acts of abuse.
Life in the Philippines or anywhere, without the strict fair implementation of the rule of law, is on the road to perdition and a nation of abused children. An uncompromising stand has to be taken to prevent more cases like that of Sylvia and many others. They must be saved and we must save them.