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Rome Reports

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Best ways to help victims of sexual abuse, according to Vatican and UN representatives


As the Summit on Abuse is scheduled to begin Feb. 21, the pope has asked bishops around world to meet with victims of abuse. He has led by example, demonstrating that listening is the way to experience their pain and begin the path of healing for both parties.

At a conference at the Gregorian University in Rome, Fr. Hans Zollner, a Summit organizer from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and a UN representative, confirm the best ways to help victims going forward.

FR. HANS ZOLLNER
Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors
“For now, listening to survivors of victims of abuse is of utmost importance. Once you listen in a way that you stay with the pain, the rage, the anger, the tears, and the hope of people who have suffered that you you cannot remain the same.”

MARTA SANTOS PAIS
UN Representative, Violence Against Children
“The first thing is to talk about it, you know is to use the human is to convey the message of what is unacceptable. And the message about what people can do about it, read a message to the families, the communities, helping them to understand that any form of violence is not accepted that they can report they can seek, how they can bring their traumatic experiences into the knowledge and the action of institutions that are established to support them.”

Some people are surprised when victims tell their story many years after the abuse has taken place. But it is normal, because sexual violence often begins at a very young age when current survivors were most vulnerable. 

According to Fr. Zollner, victims of sexual abuse need about 20-30 years after they have experienced abuse to start talking. 

FR. HANS ZOLLNER
Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors
“But we need also to realize that some of them will never speak about this because they don't find the right moment and the right person to open up. “Even if they have tried to do so with their parents or whoever they found trustworthy, many times victims report that they they were not believed. Then they really shut down. They repress; they try to forget.” 

MARTA SANTOS PAIS
UN Representative, Violence Against Children
“The worst message that we can give to victims is that they do not matter; they are not important enough.”

Thus, as Catholic bishops are convening at the Vatican this week, both representatives state that everyone needs to understand that any form of violence is not accepted, to report if they see any, and to listen to victims, both within the Church and society.