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Vicki Bernadet: “I would say to the Church that trying to cover up sexual abuse only magnifies things”

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At the end of January, Alejandro Palomas, winner of the National Youth Literature Prize, publicly recounted the sexual assaults he experienced as a child by a priest and teacher at the La Salle school in Premià de Mar (Barcelona). Since then, the complaints have continued and the writer has achieved the commitment of Pedro Sánchez to create a commission to investigate cases of pedophilia in the Spanish Church. But, as a warning Vicki Bernadetfounder of the Vicki Bernadet Foundation against child sexual abuse, “I hope they have the courage to make a commission of totally independent experts. Only in this way could its transparency and effectiveness be guaranteed.”

Although the activist values ​​her creation positively, she considers that “it is difficult to believe” that In our country there are only 220 cases that the Church recognizes Spanish and that they would be only the tip of the iceberg. Furthermore, he emphasizes that it is essential that the commission be accompanied by a budget that guarantees your performance.

“The Law against violence in children approved last year was a great step in this sense, the problem is that since it did not have a sufficient budget allocation to apply it, it is falling behind. We must press for those economic resources to be available, so that it can be implemented in its entirety. At the moment it is not like that. Another thing that has to do with what we talked about before the commission. At the moment there is no budget item planned for it, or at least I have not found out, so it would be essential to see if they will have financial resources so that they can really work.

“When one acts with transparency, with courage and gives a response to what is happening, the storm goes out”

When I interviewed you, you told me that the issue of sexual abuse in childhood, and specifically those that occur in the close environment of minors, was a topic that no one wanted to talk about. You even had a hard time finding companies that wanted to support the Vicki Bernadet Foundation. Is it still like this?

We have made very little progress. In the last three years we have obtained some donations or sponsorships, but they are not proportional to the percentage of the population that suffers domestic abuse, nor to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). There is still resistance to a brand appearing alongside the issue of childhood sexual abuse. It has changed a little, but not much. And it is something that I do not understand because CSR is to support social problems and there are many, it is true, of all kinds, and I understand that we must diversify the support of private entities to the different problems that society has, but the thing is that the sexual abuse is 20% of the population is not proportional to the rejection it has from companies.

Perhaps because it questions the family as a sacrosanct place and questions us as a society that is not capable of protecting its minors?

Well, family, childhood, sexuality… But there is also resistance to believing those percentages, they are questioned. When these figures are not given by our foundation or another entity, they are data endorsed by the Council of Europe. I think it’s a matter of it being an issue, as a businessman once told me, that it’s ‘ugly’. And, yes, of course he is ugly, but what is truly horrible is that an adult takes a child and does things to him that can mark him for the rest of his life. Precisely for this reason, I believe that companies and private entities should have more courage when saying ‘I support the cause because of the need, not because of what it is’. But we are still a little far from it.

How to help

It is like deciding not to help those who need it most, those who can least defend themselves, the children, and those adults who suffered sexual abuse in their childhood.

CSR elsewhere is that, but I think here it is marketing. And of course, if we approach it from a marketing perspective, then our ‘topic’ sells less than others that are serious, but easier to address.

“There is resistance in believing those percentages, they are questioned”

How to act if a minor tells you that they are suffering sexual abuse?

The first and most important thing is that you listen to them, that you don’t ask them, because if you talk they are going to spill everything. They should not be questioned, not only out of respect for the minor, but because the questions must be asked later by a professional in the instruction process. Furthermore, the testimony of a minor must be taken with great care because it is the only evidence one has. After listening, believe, because a boy or a girl does not invent these things.

The percentage of false complaints is very low. And when it happens, it is not that the children are lying, but that it has been an induced story, but a specialized forensic interviewer knows what questions to ask to dismantle the false accusation. Believing them is essential because if they are not believed, they often retract what they said, preferring to back out. That is why it is essential to take into account the impact that speaking has on them. If those who have suffered abuse are listened to and believed, the possibilities of reversing their situation multiply.

And how to detect and help a minor in a situation of abuse?

92% of cases of sexual abuse are not counted until one is an adult. Children don’t usually talk about it. But, although sometimes they do not say it in words, they can express it through their emotions, or through drawings. That’s why we adults have to train ourselves to detect it. There is something basic, that we have to be aware that there is a possibility of it happening. If you think it is something incredible or that it only happens in other families, you will hardly realize if it happens in yours. And the other thing is to take advantage of all the opportunities we have to train ourselves on the subject. It is essential because how this boy or girl feels at the moment they speak it will mark their future.

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