ACT I. Sexual Abuse and Gender Violence
Any kind of violence against children is a serious human rights violation. However, sexual violence is clearly one of the most horrific crimes because it includes the deceitful subjugation, domination and intimidation of typically helpless victims. This kind of violence manifests in the form of harassment, sexual abuse, lascivious acts, rape and exploitation through prostitution or pornography. Mobile phones and the internet heighten the risks in this regard for children and adolescents, due to the increase in the amount and circulation of sexually explicit content, including images showing related acts of aggression.
Various expressions of this kind of violence in the context of the country’s complex humanitarian emergency, exacerbated by the measures of confinement in homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic are frequently reported through media outlets. The fact is that, in the current crisis, many children and adolescents face imminent risk of being subjected to any form of sexual violence that may remain unreported, so it is indispensable to educate and instruct mothers, fathers, teachers and especially children and adolescents themselves, for them to identify these incidents, expose them, denounce them and access all the possible protections.
The sources reviewed for this report indicate that, between January and April 2020, 52 children and adolescents suffered sexual assault: two small girls (9 and 10 years old); a teenage girl (age unknown) and a boy (3) died this way. The latter case was particularly brutal, as the perpetrator, brother of the child’s mother who had left to Colombia, abused the boy to death and then threw his body to the river Guaire in Caracas. Other two teenage girls were assaulted by their fathers; one of them became pregnant and was forced to have an abortion. In another case, a mother allowed strangers to abuse her children in exchange for alcoholic beverages. It is important to note that, in several of these situations, the mothers were aware of the issue and negligent in providing their children appropriate protection. Other relevant cases were a total of 17 complaints involving priests who had sexually assaulted children and adolescents.
The Prosecutor’s Office reported in January that, between 2017 and 2020, it had processed 8,966 cases of sexual abuse, but only 1,340 (15%) of these led to a court sentence; in 4,335 (48%) of the cases, the perpetrators were indicted and 3,289 (36%) resulted in prosecution. The high levels of impunity and procedural delay cause important limitations that increase the vulnerability of children and adolescents in light of the lack of protection, justice and reparation.
Trafficking and exploitation
Among the cases reported during this period, there are several associated with forms of modern slavery. For instance, a man who managed a ring of prostitution of children and adolescents in Caracas was recently caught; similarly, a pedophile that published images on social media and sexually abused his nephew (7) was arrested. Meanwhile, at the border between Colombia and Venezuela (Táchira and Apure) there were complaints that irregular armed groups recruited children and adolescents for sexual exploitation; the media reported the regrettable case of Yosqueilis Zurita (17) who, despite having filed a complaint before the Prosecutor’s Office about the incidents that took place when the boat “Jonaily José” shipwrecked in April, 2019, was kidnapped again this year and sold in Trinidad to a prostitution ring.
There is shelter amidst the storm
Sexual violence and exploitation are violations against human dignity that cannot be tolerated or denied. No one, much less a child or a teenager, should be exposed to this abuse. All individuals are obligated to denounce these cases, all families should be educated, and schools and society as a whole must provide explicit and timely support, based on the conviction that the State is the guarantor of the inalienable right of every human being to enjoy a life free of violence, subjugation and exploitation.
Although the official figures and news reports are a testament to the pending debt in this regard, it is also undeniably important to highlight the efforts to document, monitor, denounce and provide support to the victims of gender-based violence and sexual assault, carried out by feminist organizations such as AVESA, EXODO, Cepaz, Mujeres en Línea, Mulier, La Araña Feminista, Entrompe de Falopio or Tinta Violeta, to name a few. Likewise, the National Association of Protection Counselors (ASONACOP) has been gaining strength to offer children, adolescents and their families a proper attention that may allow them to get justice for the violation of their rights, especially the effects related to sexual abuse and exploitation.
Lastly, media outlets must continue exposing these cases appropriately and respectfully, honoring the dignity of the families, but doing their best so that these horrors are never normalized or repeated, instead enabling the demand for justice.
Reportaje elaborado por la Red de derechos Humanos de Niñas, Niños y Adolescentes
Edición y producción a cargo de Caleidoscopio Humano
Gracias al apoyo de Tejiendo Redes de infancia, con el apoyo de la Unión Europea para América Latina