The Crisis Is Worldwide
THE terrible massacre of street children in Brazil is yet another example of the vulnerability of unwanted children. Reports from that country said that several hundred children were being murdered every year.
There have been brutal attacks on children at Dunblane, Scotland, and Wolverhampton, England, and in many other areas. For example, imagine the suffering of 12-year-old Maria, an Angolan orphan who was raped and became pregnant. Later she was forced to march about 200 miles [320 km], after which she gave birth to a premature baby who lived for just two weeks. Maria died a week later, ill and undernourished.
In 1992 a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report said that “‘war on children’ is a 20th century invention.” According to a 1996 report by UNICEF, the view of some is that ‘future generations of the enemy, that is, the enemies’ children, must also be eliminated.’ A political commentator expressed it this way: “To kill the big rats, you have to kill the little rats.”
Two million children have met violent deaths in a recent ten-year period. Another four million have ended up maimed, blinded, or brain damaged from land mines, surviving as best they can along with the many millions who have lost their homes in wars. No wonder a report carried the headline: “Nightmare Vision of War’s Brutality to Children.”
These atrocities committed on children are a blight on humanity, a sure proof that children are in crisis, not in just a few countries but all over the world. And many children who have been abused have been betrayed as well.
Betrayed by Those They Trusted
Betrayal of a child’s trust can leave terrible scars. This is especially true when it is a parent, friend, or mentor who betrays the child’s trust. The magnitude of child abuse by parents can be seen from the flood of phone calls received by a hot line after the broadcast of a program called “Scared Silent: Exposing and Ending Child Abuse,” which was hosted by talk-show personality Oprah Winfrey in the United States. “The most shocking crisis calls were from young children, calling in fear, wanting to escape the pain of physical or sexual abuse,” noted executive producer Arnold Shapiro, as quoted in the journal Children Today.
This event did much to dispel the notion that child abusers are big scary strangers. The fact is that “the vast majority of abuse is perpetrated by parents and other close relatives,” concludes Shapiro. Other research confirms this finding and also indicates that trusted family friends have at times groomed the child and family for later, well-planned abuse of the child. Incest is the most shocking betrayal of trust.
Sexual abuse by pedophiles is another threat to children throughout the world. Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice gives this definition: “Paedophilia refers to sexual attraction towards the very young. . . . Paedophilia invariably involves the commission of crimes such as sexual assault, indecency and offences relating to child pornography.”
Sickening reports of pedophile rings, which greedily exploit children sexually, are flooding in from all over the world. (See the box on page 7.) The victims are both young boys and young girls. Lured by unscrupulous men, they are sexually abused and then threatened or lavishly spoiled to encourage them to remain with the “club.” The men who plan and perform these vile acts are often prominent leaders of the community and sometimes do so with the full knowledge and protection of the police and the judiciary.
Sexual abuse of children by clergymen is also causing outrage. News reports from all over the world reveal the extent of child abuse by clergymen, sometimes even in the name of God. For example, a convicted Anglican priest told his ten-year-old victim that “God was speaking through him [the clergyman], and anything he did or anything [the boy] did was loved by God and therefore right.”
In Australia a review of the book The Battle and the Backlash: The Child Sexual Abuse War commented on child abuse by clergymen and others in positions of trust. It said that the organizations involved appeared to be concerned with limiting the damage to their own image and protecting themselves rather than protecting vulnerable children.
A child’s trust is usually given completely, without reservation. So if that trust is betrayed, it has a devastating impact on an unsuspecting young mind. The publication Child Abuse & Neglect notes: “Persons and places that previously signaled safety or support have become associated with danger and fear. The child’s world becomes less predictable and controllable.”
As a result of such abuse, much of which has gone on for many years, some children have developed social and psychiatric problems later in life, well into adulthood. This betrayal of trust is so damaging because a child has been taken advantage of because he or she is a child. Yet, many children who are abused never report the matter—a fact that child abusers rely heavily on.
In recent years, evidence of worldwide child abuse has been growing, so that today there is a mountain of such evidence that can no longer be denied or ignored. But most agree that the elimination of child abuse is a formidable task. So these questions arise: Is there anyone who can really protect our children? How can those of us who are parents protect our God-given heritage and look after the lives of our vulnerable young children? To whom can parents turn for help?
[Box/Picture on page 7]
Internet Sting Operation
A few months ago, in one of the largest undercover sting efforts ever carried out against Internet child pornography, police in 12 countries raided the homes of more than 100 suspected pedophiles. From just one pedophile ring based in the United States, they recovered over 100,000 pornographic images of children.
The British detective who coordinated the five-month Internet investigation stated: “The content would absolutely turn the stomach of any right-minded person.” Children were of both sexes, some as young as two years of age. Belgian police said that the Internet images were “the most revolting depictions of child porno. . . . It went so far that people abused their own children to be able to present the most striking material.” One man kept photos of himself raping his niece and entered these in his computer.
Suspects included teachers, a scientist, a law student, a medical student, a scoutmaster, an accountant, and a university professor.
[Picture on page 6]
An explosive device maimed this boy’s right hand
UN/DPI Photo by Armineh Johannes
[Picture Credit Line on page 7]
Photo ILO/J. Maillard