“Do you accept siblings?” Mikaela only had one question as her hopeful eyes looked up at me at the end of our referral interview. At 15 years old, Mikaela was referred to Safe through the Philippine department of social welfare. As we talked and I began to get a grasp on her story, it became clear that Mikaela was very concerned about her 11 year old sister, Maggie. When Mikaela was 13, teachers saw signs of abuse and an investigation showed that Mikaela had been a victim of sexual violence and neglect for 8 years. They removed her from the home and placed her in an orphanage but left eight year old Maggie in the home where the abuse had occurred. For two years they were separated; Mikaela cried every night, tormented that she had ‘abandoned’ her sister.
During that time, Mikaela was molested again by an orphanage staff member. A social worker with a heart for sexually abused girls knew Mikaela needed to be protected and referred her to Safe Refuge. Through all of this, Maggie remained Mikaela’s number one priority. She didn’t want her younger sister to experience the pain, fear and abuse that had stolen her own childhood. Mikaela wanted to be in a place where she could go through the healing process and feel secure but she knew that could never happen if she was unable to protect her sister when her life was at great risk.
When I asked, “Would you like your sister to be with you? Would you feel at peace if she stays with you?” tears filled her eyes as she slowly nodded. She let out a deep breath and it was as if she was releasing a load that had been much too heavy for her young shoulders. The sad and disturbing truth is that her worries and fears are all valid. I can’t count the number of times we’ve heard stories from those who have been victims of molestation, sexual abuse and exploitation with siblings who also become easy prey for the abuser. This is especially true in cases like Mikaela’s where the abusers were family members. More often than not, statistics show that these siblings are likely to end up working in the bars prostituting themselves or being pimped out by their abusers. The vast majority of girls we’ve talked to who currently or used to work in bars were first abused in their homes.
Our social worker and the referring party worked together tirelessly to get custody of Maggie and a few days after Mikaela came to live with us she was reunited with her sister. They’re now living together at Safe as they begin the journey of healing and rebuilding. For the first time in their lives these precious little girls are being protected and watched over, for the first time in their lives they get to be children.