A Shelter for Victims of Sexual Abuse
Nelson Giovanelli Rosendo dos Santos, Co-founder
Especially in recent years the Catholic Church has openly and courageously faced the problem of sexual abuse and power within it. Recently, the Fazenda da Esperança has been appointed as an entity that has made an important experience of welcoming young people who have suffered from it. Many of them have come to chemical dependency, by the way, as an escape from a family or ecclesial environment that, instead of protecting them, has connived with these abuses.
This reception is fundamental in the process of recovering the lives of these victims. In this sense, our method on the Fazenda is absolutely simple, because it is based on an equally simple understanding and practice of the words of the Gospel. In a word, it corresponds to concrete and disinterested love for the brother who suffers.
This evangelical love creates a favorable environment for young people to open up and share their own experience of abuse. In fact, admitting the problem and putting it in common is the first step towards healing and freedom from this suffering. For the victim, a natural consequence of this process is the forgiveness of the other aggressor, of all those who ended up colluding with the abuse and of themselves.
In addition, formation is offered for a healthy affectivity and sexuality of these young people, who are quite committed to the violence suffered, in general, in childhood. For this, we have sought help from other organizations.
But this experience would be incomplete if we did not also open ourselves to welcoming the abuser who, repentant, wants to change his life and overcome his inclination to abuse. In fact, following the same Gospel, we could not allow ourselves only to condemn those who commit this violence, but to offer them an opportunity to start again.
The fruits of this experience have been disseminated in the many testimonies that we have been able to share through the different channels at our disposal and at the invitation of the Church and other organizations.
One of these experiences is that of César Augusto Coutrim, today responsible for the unity of the Fazenda da Esperança in Marechal Deodoro (State of Alagoas). He tells that he grew up in a family that, from an early age, did not treat him well. He was beaten a lot, practically every day and for any reason, especially from his mother, who counted on his father’s conniving silence. He felt as if he was not welcome in that house. Even with his family broken down, his mother took him to Sunday masses. He ended up finding some welcome in the church from the choir coordinator, and he felt happy, especially when he stayed in the back room, making little plaster angels. “I felt safe, away from hell at home,” he says.
He even had a positive impression of the priest, who showed affection for the children. However, one Sunday afternoon, when the priest offered him a ride to his family’s place, he sat him on his lap and took advantage of little Caesar. “Don’t tell your parents anything,” the priest said to the boy on the occasion. In time, these situations of intimacy were repeated and intensified. Why didn’t he react? Caesar says he believes he would rather endure that situation than stay at home.
Without knowing when, he tells us that, at a certain point, he rebelled with all that and ended up burning what he had of the church: the crown tunic, books, the children’s Bible. The emptiness of meaning was an open road for drug consumption and the relationship with drug dealers with whom he ended up feeling respected. Naturally, from then on, the problems with the family only increased.
At the end of the crisis, Caesar was led to seek the Fazenda da Esperança. He considers that, deep down, his big problem was not drugs, but his family. On the Fazenda it was as if “God took him by the hand,” according to his words. The Gospel life lived on the farm not only helped him to free himself from the use of drugs, to rebuild his life – and, over time, his relationship with his parents – it made him trust again that there is a true Church.
 Fazenda da Esperança is a therapeutic community that has been active since 1983 in the recovery of people who seek freedom from their addictions, especially alcohol and drugs. Present in 23 countries, this entity has 143 communities in which it serves about 3500 young people. More information on the portal: https://www.portalfazenda.org/.