As stated by Dostoevsky, “the soul is healed by being with children.” But what happens to the souls of those who exploit children, butcher their innocence and force them to live in a world that is inhabited not by the fairy tale characters they grew up fantasizing about, but by evil monsters lurking in every corner. Do their souls decimate, bit by bit, with every innocent life they wreck beyond repair? Or do they have no souls, to begin with? One such soulless shell of a human named Sohail Ayaz was recently arrested for his innumerable sexual offenses against minors. He admitted to raping more than 30 children in Pakistan, both boys and girls. Furthermore, he filmed these heinous acts and circulated them among child pornography rings. Prior to this, he was convicted and imprisoned in the UK in 2009 for child sexual offenses, yet, he managed to land himself a job with the KP government on a foreign-funded project as a consultant without raising any red flags. This poses several questions, mainly regarding the incompetence of the authorities who fail to cross-check, verify, or flag such felons before hiring them, and how a convicted pedophile managed to slip under the government’s radar so easily. His list of offenses is never-ending, where he has committed every horrific and sickening act against innocent children a person can possibly imagine. Unfortunately, Sohail Ayaz is one among countless monsters who are freely prowling this country, just waiting to find their next victim, and they eventually do. A 13-year-old rape victim was recently reported to have given birth from a pregnancy that was a result of said rape. Two of her rapists are out on bail whereas the other two are still unidentified and are believed to have absconded. Such is the sorry state of our country and its law enforcement bodies, dismal and disappointing, repeatedly failing to get justice for those wronged. And sadly, pedophilia is extremely prevalent in our society where cases of children being sexually abused in Madrassas have become the norm, and where areas like Kasur are notorious for their widespread child abuse and pornography rings. It is unfortunate that we live in a world where people are constantly shamed for being victims of situations they had no control over whereas the culprits run off unscathed, living their lives without the burden of consequences of their actions. Somewhere in all of this, we as a society have failed as well, and we are to blame almost equally as our establishment which has been unsuccessful in implementing child protection laws. We have failed to protect these children. We have failed to give them the justice they deserve. We have failed to understand that they are not the ones to be blamed. We have failed to raise our voices in support of those who needed it the most because their voices were brutally silenced. We have failed to break the taboos and cultural barriers that force the victims into hiding and feeling ashamed for what they have been through. But most of all, we have failed to enable these “victims” into becoming “survivors,” because, at the end of the day, that is what they are. To be able to go through something so horrific at such a tender age and still manage to preserve even an ounce of their sanity is commendable. Yet all we do is silence their voices and force them to live in perpetual fear of being treated differently in society and being an embarrassment to the family honor. The question is, what will it finally take for us to wake up and realize that child sexual abuse is a persisting problem and has a very strong, traumatic and long-lasting impact on those who fall prey to such atrocities? When are we going to understand that rape has nothing to do with gender, attire, and age? Are these children wearing revealing or “inappropriate clothes?” Are these children flaunting their bodies and seducing these criminals? This patriarchal mindset needs to change. Above all, when are we finally going to stop feeling ashamed and start discussing these issues with our children, teach them about the differences between good and bad touch, and build such a level of trust with our children that if something so unfortunate ever happens to them, they are able to confide in their parents and guardians without feeling any shame or guilt. In this garden of life, children are like delicate flowers that need to be nourished, cared for and protected. How many more flowers will be plucked, until the entire garden withers away, leaving in its wake a land as barren as the souls of these demons?