By a Biometrica staffer
On Monday, May 31, the Center for The Defense of Children’s Rights, published a report in which it said it had uncovered a “disturbing pattern” of child sexual abuse at as many as 18 schools and childcare centers in Mexico. The investigation alleges that it has found evidence that numerous adult employees coordinated to sexually abuse children as young as three years old, exhibiting tactics that were “eerily similar,” according to the Associated Press.
The Center’s legal team identified possible criminal patterns of abuse and then reviewed 37 cases to see if any of their details matched that pattern. They found such similarities in 18 schools. The group said that their findings “demonstrate patterns of criminal behavior characterized by organized aggressions committed by multiple adults perpetrated in mass scale within the premises of a given school.”
In many of these attacks, perpetrators used similar disguises or staged the act in similar ways. The victims were also made to watch adults engaging in sexual activity and abusing other children. The group says that in 2018 they found one case in which 11 adults at a preschool abused pupils between ages three and five, using a practice that they “found over and over in other cases.” In 2011, six staffers at one school — its principal, four teachers and the janitor — were found guilty of abuse. The report says that the assaults took place within the school and that the abusers “do not seem to hide when committing the repeated abusive behavior.” In fact, activists and lawyers prosecuting the cases expressed amazement at how brazen the abusers were.
These types of coordinated rings need to be met with an equal, if not greater, level of organization between various law enforcement agencies and the legal system. However, this does not appear to be happening on the ground, according to the Center. They say that rather than noting patterns or even questioning whether assaults involve more than one perpetrator, prosecutors tend to go after abusers as individuals. This disorganization and fragmentation makes it near impossible to draw links between criminal organizations and serial offenders.
The report highlighted that there is a chance that “numerous primary and pre-school facilities have been coopted and used to commit on-line child sexual abuse.” Many of the victims say that they were filmed or photographed during the assaults, raising the specter of child sexual abuse material being produced and disseminated out of these crimes.
Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, termed the report’s revelations “reprehensible” and “appalling.” He said his government is engaged in ongoing work to tackle the problem of child sexual abuse. He said he has asked his administration to present a report on the status of these efforts.
Meanwhile, school shutdowns and the advent of online learning that has stemmed from the Covid-19 pandemic is unlikely to have helped matters at all. Organizations like UNICEF and INTERPOL have noted a worrying spike in reports of children being sexually abused and exploited online.