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Abused children can become violent adults

(Fr. Shay's columns are published in The Manila Times and several other publications, copy at no cost as is with acknowledgement)

From 35 years experience helping young people overcome the traumatic effects of childhood violence be it psychological, verbal, physical, economic, military, emotional and sexual abuse seriously damages lives, restricts full human development, reduces potential and can lead to childhood psychosomatic illness. It causes teenagers to become violent, bullies, teenage shooters, indulge in criminal behavior and suffer from adult neurosis. In others, children grow into aggressive and violent teenagers and adults. The absence of parental and family acceptance, understanding, nurturing, and affirming love creates a vacuum and vulnerability for negative and violent influences to dominate the lives of these children and youth.

Any form of childhood abuse can lead to deep buried pain, frustration, unfulfilled desires and longing and prone to anger and hostility. Unfulfilled desires for justice can breed rebellious and antisocial resentment and behavior, a desire, to retaliate at parents, family, society, and authority figures will be strong. This leads to a vulnerability to recruitment into violent youth gangs with criminal violent behavior. In extreme forms this buried anger and frustration makes young people give up hope of change and they despair. They lose any hope of a better future and suicide is frequently seen as a way out. Fanatical extremists prey on these vulnerable youth they are the ideal recruits for terrorist organizations and easily convinced to be a suicide bomber.

History has given the world many war criminals, cruel vindictive leaders, political demons and cruel dictators, torturers and tyrants, mass murderers and genocidal killers. Childhood neglect, abuse and violent upbringings create the personality that can become tyrant, genocidal killer and psychopath. These are the people who have caused wars, atrocities and mass murder.

Preventing and healing victims of childhood abuse and violence is one of the important ways to create cultures of peace and peace loving societies opposed to violence and abuse of all kinds. Violence leads to more violence and the abuse and neglect of children and treating them as the objects of punishment and violence and rejection by society is sowing the seeds of violence and rebellions and terrorism.

In the wars that ravage the planet these days the brutality, torture and destruction caused by western troops are just creating deeper hatred, resentment, anger and hostility. Peace can never be made by wars of aggression, invasion, and occupation. When we see the willful destruction, death and life long wounds of civilians we must conclude that the tactics are creating more enemies that they are eliminating, killing and capturing. It's an endless circle of violence and as always violence begets more violence.

Prison violence scars young people for life. Stopping it in jails, on the streets, in the school yards, in the home and bring about a more gently, loving society based on justice is the way forward to building a culture of peace and the love of justice.

There are an estimated 20,000 children put inside police jails, holding cells and prisons for days, weeks, months through the space of one year in the Philippines. Some are just children as young as 11 to 17 years old. Preda provides an alternative home and takes legal action to get the courts to give custody of these minors to the Preda Foundation and so we get them out of jail. Some are held in police stations and are in cells with adult criminals. They suffer abuse, torture and hazing and humiliation and sexual abuse. They are prone to disease, hunger, emotional trauma and long term psychological damage. Preda project officers have intensified their visitation of jails and police detention centers during 2006 and 2007. Last October 3, 2007 the Preda social workers found 11 minors with several adult detainees in the Navotas City Police Station. They went back to the police station on 16 October 2007 and found 14 minors behind bars. Some of these children are below 15 years-of-age, the age of criminal responsibility or are charged for offenses not applicable to children.

The law forbidding this is generally ignored. If society sees prisons' harsh punishment and abuse as the only way to help children grow then we are in for a very uncertain future. As I say, they were born innocent. How did they get like this in prison cells treated as criminals at 8 and 12 years old? We all have a lot to answer for because we let it happen. END

Contact Fr. Shay Cullen at the Preda Center, Upper Kalaklan, Olongapo City, Philippines.
PREDA Information Office
PREDA Foundation, Inc.