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Ending Impunity by Empowering the Victims

July 13, 2016 ·  By Francis Bermido Jr.

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Ending Impunity by Empowering the Victims
Francis Bermido Jr.

Impunity is what attracts sex tourists from all over the world to come to the Philippines to abuse children trafficked into the sex industry. Breaking this culture entails rescuing victims and placing them in a safe haven where they can get therapy and education and putting the abusers and traffickers on trial as soon as the children are empowered to do so. That, in a nutshell, is what the Preda-Phil-Am Fund project does.

Maria, abandoned by her parents since she was a baby, was only 13 years old when she began to have a conflict with her aunt. She was made to do household chores but was not accepted by the family. She wandered around the neighborhood in a town south of Manila looking for friends. She was lonely and vulnerable. She was befriended by an adult man whom she called “Dada.”

He gave her money and gifts and she came to think Dada was the only person in the whole world that loved her. Soon, he raped her and she had nowhere to run, no one to talk to and afraid to ask help. He then invited his friends to abuse her also. She was brought to hotels and sold for sex to the customers that Dada had lined up.

When her aunt learned that Maria was being prostituted, she filed criminal charges for human trafficking against Maria’s abusers

and then asked them for settlement money to have the charges dropped. When the government social workers heard about the terrible plight of Maria, they realized that she was an emotionally shattered child with no human person to trust or cling to. They referred her to the Preda home for abused and trafficked girls.

She was very quiet during the first week or so but soon began to make friends and trust the social workers and therapists. She was given all her needs and treated with respect and dignity. This was totally new for her and she discovered that she was a cared for person with values and rights.

She grew and blossomed over the first months especially with the help of emotional release therapy. She began to heal and open up to the therapists and her social worker and told her story of abuse.

After some months, she was emotionally strong and resilient. Last June 14 Maria escorted by a Preda social worker went to court and bravely testified against her abusers- one is in jail while two others paid bail. There is no assurance they will be convicted but Maria is happy to have told her story in open court. In the meantime, Maria is going to school every day as a Grade 10 student and will graduate from junior high school next year.

francisbermido@preda.org

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