By Gbenga Adebambo
There is an issue that the church has kept so much quiet about but needs to be escalated! An issue in which the church and religious institutions have become culprits in its perpetuation. Sexual violence against minors destroys the confidence of young people and set them up for more abuse in the future. I grew up having great reverence for the Altar of God. I see the Altar as more of a place to alter the affairs of men positively. It was actually the impetus I needed to become a clergy myself, but alas, that solemn place that was meant for prayers has now become a place to prey! The rate at which the society is breeding paedophiles and sexual predators has become quite frightening and alarming.
The horrific consequences of child sexual abuse cannot be quantified! In the eye opening film October 1, a dark psychological thriller film, produced and directed by Kunle Afolayan, it was clearly pictured that hurting people hurt people! It was a pathetic story of a serial killer abusing and slaughtering native young women. It was sympathetic to find out at the tail end of the film that the killer’s incessant act of frivolous killings was an outflow of childhood abuse. Child sex abuse affects children’s mental health well into adulthood with disorders such as but not limited to, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), BPD(Borderline Personality Disorder), and DID(Dissociative Identity Disorder).
We are living in an age where some people take their priestly robe and ‘constituted authority’ as a license for impunity. In fact, the debauchery that goes on the altar of some churches has reached an irredeemable height! Our Lord Jesus raised the alarm about some 2000 years ago when he said “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” These ravening wolves come in different forms as extortionist, corrupt priests, priest that are given to wordly and material pursuits, egoistic spiritual leaders, and the list goes on and on but the most psychologically destructive of them all will be the object of my piece for today- The Paedophile priests! The greatest of thieves don’t steal things, they still the identity of children and vulnerable adults. There is a way sexual abuse tinkers with a child’s destiny. Children that have been abused often find it very challenging to live normal lives again, especially when the abuse is from a trusted figure or ‘constituted’ authority.
Poignantly, most of the perpetrators of this dastardly acts are people with whom parents and children have come a long way to hold in high esteem. It is so pathetic to know that religious clerics (both Christians and Muslims) have stooped so low to sexually assault minors who they ordinarily have obligations to guide, counsel and protect. I have observed that children are mostly vulnerable to people they hold in high esteem-most likely clerics, teachers and close relatives. These highly placed spiritual leaders don’t stop at one kid, their voracious appetites and reprobate minds normally move them from one vulnerable child to the other. People that are supposed to be a source of mass blessing are now weapons of mass abuse. The poignant part of this incessant abuse is that some abusive priests are being shielded by powers. Child molestation by people that are supposed to be the epitome of sanctity and custodians of truth is worrisome, appalling, degrading, demeaning and sickening.
Paedophiles by definition are adults with uncontrollable sexual appetite for children or an adult who is more attracted to children sexually. The sexual abuse of children under the age of consent by priests has received significant media and public attention in the United States, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Belgium, France, Germany, Australia and Africa. Many of the cases span several decades and are brought forward years after the abuse occurred. The tabloids are replete with cases of this unholy acts that has put spiritual leaders under great scrutiny: Arabic teacher who allegedly defiled three sisters in their parents’ house docked (Nigerian Tribune); Indian spiritual guru,77, gets life in prison for raping teenage girls(TRT World).With deep reverence for clergies and religious leaders, I believe it is high time we took a diagnostic look into the menace that has disparaged the altar of God and diminished his hallowed presence.
The alarming rate of child abuse is worthy of the world’s attention. The UK National Crime Agency claims that one in 35 men are sexually attracted to children and also that one in 20 children are sexually abused. The challenge of effective child protection requires us to face the reality that adult sexual attraction to children is not something to take lightly! Prior to the 1970s child adult sexual activity was not considered a common or important trauma in human psychological development (Bullough,1990). Today, the paedophile is regarded as a social pariah, the embodiment of deviant sexuality (Greenberg, 1990).
An ancient piece of advice from the Holy Bible goes thus: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour”. As a child right protection coach, I have observed that most child abuse cases would have been averted if parents and school authorites were more vigilant and proactive. Parents are most culpable as they refuse to educate their wards on discerning paedophilic tendencies and how to properly manage the information in such a way as to bring the culprits to book and also avoid the societal stigmatization of the victims. It becomes mandatory for parents to ensure that their wards don’t become victims. Prevention is not only better than cure but mentally and psychologically safer than cure.
As much as I respect clergies and even that I am one of them, I seriously frown at some chronic satanic trends in the house of God. Some priests feed on the vulnerability of children to defile them. The issue has now even become very chronic as more churches are now into building orphanage homes, schools for children and tertiary institutions without adequate child protection procedures. I have come to realize over the years that the easiest place for a paedophile to hide is in the church or institutions of learning! There are many orphaned children whom the world see as being under the custodian of the church and religious bodies but are actually victims of the most despicable acts of human cruelty. Many vulnerable children are suffering from ‘holy predators’ who have become self-absorbed in their elated office. The Church will need to soberly address this preying issue and stop insulating offenders from facing the wrath of the law. The church must self-evaluate itself and stop insulating reprobate priests from facing the law.
The church must rise up to institutionally fight this menace that is ravaging, obliterating and encroaching on the sanity and sanctity of the church. We must stop denying the reality of this gross misconduct. What criteria do we use to select children teachers in church? How is the church keeping a diagnostic eye on the affairs of the children’s schools under them? How safe are the vulnerable children under the church orphanage and motherless children homes? Do your pastors and church leaders have paedophilic tendencies? Do we have an organized way of reporting this kind of issues and how are they handled?
Paedophiles are especially gifted at finding the most vulnerable victims. How can you decipher and insulate your child against their tactics? All parents will definitely need this. Who knows, you might just have a paedophile next door; as a family friend, as a mentor, as a neighbor, as a close relative and even more badly as your spiritual father!
Signs to look out for in paedophiles include: deep love for child-like activities, preference for jobs and roles that involves daily contact with children, they are highly manipulative, they relate better with children than adults. Biologically, experiments have ascertained that they are likely to be left-handed and have earlobes that aren’t detached to their heads. This is according to a study that confirms that paedophilia is a biological problem, with physical deformities to match. Parents and guardians are also to look out for the signs of ‘grooming’ to avert abuse in their wards. The term “grooming” refers to the process the child molester undertakes to gain a child’s trust, and sometimes the parents’ trust as well. Many child molesters won’t actually begin abusing a child until trust has been gained. Another thing to look out for is what is called- The Stockholm syndrome. This is the tendency of a child to develop positive feelings and emotion for the predator. In extreme cases, this makes the child to desire their approval and continued acceptance. This syndrome compromises the child’s innate ability to decipher good and bad behavior, beclouds the child’ sense of judgment and even make the victim to be emotionally attached to their captors!
There are many ways by which parents and guardians can guard their ward from sexual abuse:
SPEND ENOUGH TIME WITH YOUR CHILDREN: Most abuses could have been averted if parents spend ample of time with their wards. Paedophiles understands the psychology of Attention Deficiency Syndrome (ADS). Paedophiles feed more on children that are being starved of attention. Child molesters look out for children that lack emotional support or aren’t getting enough attention at home. I have often observed that sex predators prey on the children of single parents who aren’t available. Infact, many times paedophiles will develop a close relationship with a single parent in order to get close to their children. Once inside the home, they have many opportunities to manipulate the children. They use this clandestine move to step in as a “parent” figure in the life of the child. Children that lack a father figure are more prone to abuse as the sex predators subtly take up this role. You must always create ample time to supervise your child’s extracurricular activities. Being as involved as possible in your child’s life is the best way to guard against child molesters. If you don’t pay attention to your child, someone else will! It is appalling to know that many single parents are complicit in abusive attempts on their wards as they sacrifice their children’s safety to keep up their selfish relationship with the abuser! Under the child’s abuse act, parental negligence is also a form of abuse.
NO SECRETS: Abuse thrives in secrecy. Anybody that encourages your child to keep secrets away from you will ultimately end up abusing your ward! Children must be informed on the need to keep open minds with their parents. When children open up, it initiate their road to recovery and healing. Be mindful of someone that is always trying to gain your child’s trust and confidence or with whom they keep secrets. Keep an open dialogue with your children and be the kind of parent that a child wants to tell everything!
GIVE THEM THE PLATFORMS TO BE THEMSELVES: I have observed that when children are given the platforms to express themselves and be themselves, they become somewhat insulated from abuse. Children are mostly abused by the people they often open themselves to! Parents should create a conducive environment for their wards to fully express themselves
BE SENSITIVE TO YOUR WARD’S ATTITUDE: Abrupt attitudinal change like always wanting to be alone, telling lies, unusual withdrawal, loss of appetite, not wanting to go to school, drastic change in a child’s academic performance, unusual and abrupt mood swings, aggressive behavior, inappropriate sexual behaviuor or language, nightmares/sleeplessness and extremely defensive nature are mostly the indication of the onset of abuse. Kids that are often isolated or look upset are easy targets for a predator.
TALK TO THEM ABOUT SEX EDUCATION: When children don’t get the education they need about sex from their parents, they will ultimately get it from outside but in a polluted way! We must teach children on areas in their body that is forbidden to touch and never to ignore boundaries. Teach your child to recognize inappropriate touching.
TEACH THEM ABOUT PERSONAL WORTH AND VALUE: Don’t allow them to expose their private parts unduly. Children must be taught the sacredness of their private parts. When children don’t know their worth, they tend to give so much of themselves away to cheap things. I have seen children being exposed to paedophilic attack because the offender was giving them candies and special gifts. Offenders will always study their prospective victims beforehand to know their weak points.
DON’T BE JUDGEMENTAL: Children are always afraid of being judged! When all they receive from their parent is judgement, they tend to withdraw. Make sure your kids know they will not be punished or judged for anything they tell you.
TRUST YOUR CHILD: Never dismiss a child’s claim because the adult in question is a valued member of society or appears incapable of such things. That’s exactly what a child molester wants! Kids who don’t have a trusting relationship with their parents are mostly the targets of paedophiles.
ADEQUATE MONITORING: Whatever is not being adequately monitored is set up for abuse! No matter how much you think you know someone, you need to take precautions for your child’s safety. Nothing is more important than giving your child a fair chance to succeed, and ensuring their safety. Monitoring is one of the tools to ensure your child’s safety. Set up a nanny cam if you hire a babysitter or lesson teacher, this will help you to detect inappropriate activities before they become destructive. Watch out for excessive adoration from caregivers, teachers,priests or even family friends.
COMMUNICATION: The most effective means of protecting your child is communication with your child. They have to feel comfortable discussing sensitive matters with you.
Most paedophiles are often victims of childhood abuse themselves, their continued abusive tendencies is simply an indication of an incomplete or unsuccessful healing process. In this regard, they need life-support and not societal condemnation. In my therapeutic work with victims and offenders, I have found a variety of different causes of paedophilic acts. A school of thought believes vehemently that paedophilic tendencies are somewhat of a learned behavior, potentially from the abusers having been sexually abused themselves as children (Langstrom, 2000; Glasser, 2001; Hummel, 2000; Dolan, 1996, Hilton and Mezey, 1996), a second school of thought believes that it is a biological illness and can be as a result of hormonal imbalance, mental disorder or brain structure(Blanchard, Cantor, and Robichaud, 2006) while a third school of thought believes that it is a result of psychosocial factors like psychological disturbance, parental emotional rejection, dysfunctional family backgrounds, lack of maternal care or neglect, substance abuse, early exposure to pornographic materials or physical violence(Salter, 2003). The one as a result of a learned behavior can easily be treated by helping the person to heal properly and forgive their offenders but the other that has to do with biologicall illness has no medical cure and can only be managed!
Finally, I want to reach out to people that are suffering secretly from paedophilic tendencies to seek for psychological and spiritual help. Someone’s physiology, family background, exposure, early childhood abuse or even spiritual deficiency can be the reason for their paedophilic lifestyle. These can only be dealt with from a combination of psychological and spiritual approach. The earlier sex offenders are helped, the fewer victims are created. I am recommending these websites (www.virped.org and www.asapinternational.org) for any adult that is struggling with paedophilic tendencies, they are proven and helpful. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, it is actually a realization of the magnitude of your challenge. Don’t keep the struggle within yourself!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it”-Maya Angelou