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RGS nuns warn against cybersexploitation

These women religious know whereof they speak, because chief among their apostolates is the care of abused women and girls.

The Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS) recently issued a statement warning against cybersexploitation or online sexual exploitation of children (Osec), as well as the rising cases of domestic violence especially during this COVID-19 pandemic and while parts of the country are under community quarantine.

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Recognizing people’s “increased yearning to feel connected in this time of closed doors and borders” the RGS point out that “there are, among us, people who use (the) gift of technology to harm others… take advantage of the situation of their physical isolation to exploit others, especially women and children who are desperate to survive this crisis, luring them with the promise of money or food.“The increase in the number of reported cases of domestic abuse and online sexual exploitation of women and children is alarming; the number of unreported ones even more frightening… The Philippines has been a global hotspot for Osec, which is an emerging type of human trafficking. Children and teenagers are abused in their own homes for the entertainment of paying customers behind the screen….

“Many women and children are vulnerable more than ever, not just to the virus but to domestic violence and exploitation, and their abusers may be the same people they are living with behind the closed doors of their own homes.”

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The sisters have a so-called Orange Wednesdays when they and their lay partners wear orange to call attention to and protest against violence against women and children.

The sisters add that “if you are experiencing, know of, or suspect any case of abuse and exploitation, we are ready to listen and help. Please call (02)89309023 or post a message on the RGS Facebook page (facebook.com.RGSPhils).”

May I add that the RGS-run St. Bridget School in Quezon City is being used during this quarantine period as a temporary home of the health frontliners who work in a nearby public hospital. If you wish to help in any way, please email [email protected]

As I said earlier, the sisters know whereof they speak. Suffice it to say that they have sanctuaries or shelters for victims of Osec, places where the badly wounded can feel safe and be away from the prying eyes of the public.

The statement of alarm coincided with the 80th anniversary this month of the canonization of the RGS’ foundress St. Mary Euphrasia Pelletier. Founded in 1835 in Angers, France, after the French Revolution, the young congregation had an urgent mission at that time—to aid morally endangered women and girls. Work in the beginning was mainly in institutions, but now the sisters’ outreach of compassion weaves tightly into the fabric of bigger society.

Allow me to do some vocation promotion in this summer of uncertainty and searching.

The first RGS arrived in the Philippines in 1912. They came by slow boat from Burma. The sisters follow in the spirit of Jesus the Good Shepherd in seeking out the neglected, oppressed, and marginalized “in whom the image of God is most obscure” — prostituted and battered women, abused children, unwed mothers in crisis, slum dwellers, landless farmers, indigenous groups, overseas workers and their families, street children, and those “excluded by the forces of globalization.”

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The RGS Province of Philippines-Japan has 164 apostolic and contemplative sisters in 24 convents, four of which are for the contemplatives who complement the sisters’ apostolates through prayer. Seventeen Filipino sisters are in missions abroad. There are more than 3,000 RGS in 74 countries. In 1996, the congregation became affiliated with the United Nations as an NGO in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council.

Added to the sisters’ vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience is the fourth vow of zeal—“to labor with zeal for the salvation of persons.” As the spunky foundress had exhorted her sisters in the aftermath of the French Revolution: “Go after the lost sheep without any rest other than the cross, no consolation other than work, no thirst other than for justice. Our zeal should embrace the whole world.”

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TAGS: cybersexploitation, Human Face, Ma. Ceres Pl Doyo, online sexual child abuse, Religious of the Good Shepherd
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