The invisible enemy: an unseen virus and sexual abuse

The hands of a South Korean comfort woman who was among those who were forced into prostitution and sexually abused at Japanese military brothels before and during World War II. Photo: CNS/Reuters

Think about it. It is amazing that one tiny, invisible, smart virus, a product of evolutionary processes, still mutating and changing its profile, can avoid detection and spread itself far and wide with impunity. It is able to bring the human species to its knees, to overpower nations, halt economies, crash the stock market, stop the flow of products and goods, paralyse communities, empty malls, ground airlines, close schools and all sport gatherings.

It has the power to confine millions of people to their homes, rooms, apartments and cruise ships. Thousands are in hospitals and many have died. Its power can motivate governments around the globe to take action and stop overnight the once free movement of people. It’s almost more powerful than nuclear war and we can’t even see it. We have to believe that this unseen enemy of the human race is out there, lurking and waiting to infect. It has already killed a reported 4,000 people worldwide. Is its danger overestimated? I will get to that later.  

No new complicated laws are needed to control the right and freedom of citizens to travel and enjoy complete freedom of movement. But this once sacred freedom is now curtailed by instant decree. The Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) coronavirus is king. The innocent who are suspected of being carriers, without medical proof, are locked up and quarantined and, in some countries, they will be fined large sums of money if they do not obey. 

So now banning convicted paedophiles from travelling to poor countries should be easy to do. This is a  proposed law I suggested and was filed by Maureen O’Sullivan TD (Teachta Dála) before the Irish Parliament. Two years on and it is yet to be acted upon. Now, without a law, anyone with Covid-19  flu can be stopped from travelling. 

It is something to which people everywhere are very sensitive and acutely aware of; this dark and dangerous threat to health that can cause death to the most vulnerable. It is Covid-19. There is nothing much we can do other than be quarantined, avoid groups of people to curtail its spread, wash our hands frequently, stand back six feet from people that might be infected. It can change human behaviour, drastically alter social contact and bring about new attitudes and understanding among people. They face a common threat. 

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Many people are worried. It has struck and is striking fear and anxiety around the world, all are afraid of the single, tiny unseen “enemy,” more powerful than all the armies in the world.

Yet, there is a greater threat and actual evil which has infected the whole world and especially male sexual abusers. Until very recently, people did not care much about child and women abuse until the #MeToo and anti-child abuse movement began. Yet, it touches the tip of a great iceberg of abuse. It is the abuse, violence and oppression of women and children that was highlighted in this recent International Women’s Day. 

Yet this violence causes more lifelong pain, suffering, sickness and death than Covid-19 ever will.  Soon it will die out. But the lifelong suffering and pain endured by silent, downtrodden victims of sexual violence will not.

In Mexico, 10 women a day are reportedly killed, hundreds more unreported murders go unnoticed. It was reported by the Centre for Women’s Resources (CWR) recently that at least one woman or child is abused every 10 minutes in the Philippines. Some 6,315 women and 6,054 children were reported as victims. Only six per cent of victims report the abuse to the authorities. Rape and abuse is like the pandemic world-wide.

The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur and expert ,Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, briefed the Special UN Human Rights Council last March 2, declaring that child sexual abuse and prostitution of children is in “every part of the world.” 

The sexual abuse of children over the Internet is perhaps the very worst form of child sexual abuse, she said, adding, “Children continue to be sold and trafficked within their own countries and across borders for the purposes of sexual exploitation.” 

She also said that “children are coerced into participation in pornographic performances online. Young girls and boys are lured with false promises and coerced into sex trade, domestic servitude, forced labour, begging and forced marriage.” She reported that 28 per cent of the child victims were under 10 years of age.  

READ  Pope Francis special Urbi et Orbi, March 27/28, still online

Such violence and the government and public apathy, indifference, lack of concern of society in general, is more destructive and hurtful to human lives than a dose of the coronavirus from which most people recover with treatment and go on to lead normal lives. Victims of abuse do not.

There is no known medication that will cure a person of Covid-19, everything is being tried and a vaccine is in the works. There is talk about the seasonal influenza killing more than the estimated 4,000 victims of Covid-19 dead already worldwide. In the United States alone, as many as 18,000 people have died from seasonal influenza since September last year, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. 

According to the International Federations of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, as many as 290,000 to 650,000 die from it yearly worldwide. This is about .14 per cent whereas Covid-19 has a potentially higher fatality rate of approximately 0.2 percent, higher than the seasonal flu. 

However, we have to take everything in perspective and do all that can be done to contain the spread of Covid-19 and save lives but so much more has to be done as the world slowly awakes to the horrific prevalence and frequency of the sexual abuse of women and children. The same energy and government action to control Covid-19 should also go to stop and contain child and woman abuse.

Father Shay Cullen

Father Shay Cullen

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