11th November, 2020

HEADLINE: 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys in Malaysia have experienced sexual abuse before they reach 18.

CONTENT COPY:
Whether you’re in a mall, a playground, classroom or even within your close-knit communities and neighbourhoods; chances are you’ve come in contact with a sexually abused child, if not the perpetrators themselves. As victims they’re unassuming. Easily passing off as “normal” children. But deep inside, they bear a dark, tragic and painful secret which will burden the rest of their lives. Could he or she be someone you know, if not love? … Something to ponder upon.

If it’s not happening in the home, it’s happening online.
Popular gaming platforms and online communities have become the go-to sites for
predators. It begins with engagement, to gaining trust before advancing to personal chat apps and eventual meetings. (If seemingly “sensible” adults can fall prey to online scams, we can’t blame a child for being manipulated.”)

The 2019 numbers were staggering.
• Under Section 17 (1) (a) sexual: of the 911 reported cases, 55 were boys and 856
were girls
• Under Section 17 (1) (b) sexual: of the 945 reported cases, 79 were boys with 866
girls

Unfortunately, police statistics and cases reported to the Welfare Department are
dismally lower. And more often than such, these cases – even when reported – often
end up on the back burner. Taking months if not years to follow-up, let alone
prosecute.

An important point to note:
Sexual abuse is almost always by someone whom the child knows and (chillingly) trusts. It is repetitive and can happen hundreds, if not thousands of times over months or years. A traumatising thought since these silent predators could be thriving among your personal or work circles.

Ask yourselves, has the Child Act 2001 been effective?
On paper, we have stringent laws to safeguard children where offenders are not only
fined but also face imprisonment. In fact, the law not only punishes offenders but also incarcerates failure to prevent. For example, if a parent or guardian, a welfare, medical or police officer fails to act, they can be fined up to RM50,000 or imprisoned. Even police reports are non-retractable. But sadly, it happens.

In other words, these laws are not enforced enough!

Prevention is better than cure.
There’s no remedy for the hurt from sexual abuse. It’s an ugly scar that stays for life.
Raising awareness in children and the community about the risks for child sexual abuse is key to increasing detection and promoting protective behaviour in children and their families.
While the police and welfare officers are also the true custodians of the children, unfortunately due to serious understaffing and the lack of social work education, they’re not fully clued in on the details of children’s rights. More often than such the courts prefer exercising the Penal Code which condign adult victims.

Education is Key
Not for just the adults and authorities. Even children need to know about consent and inappropriate behaviour, if not fully understand the law. After all, they’re just kids. Naïve, unfledged, unprepared beings who fully place their trust in adults to pave their passage through life. And when it comes to sexual offences, gender doesn’t discriminate whether it’s the adult or the child. In fact, many boys – and young men – are unaware about statutory rape. Culturally and socially, we’ve been groomed to respect the elders be it relatives, educators, religious authorities, neighbours and even random acquaintances. (An indication of a well-brought-up child – Mak, Bapak ajar.) So in many cases, it’s deemed “okay” as long as there’s some nebulous, ambiguous form of mutual “consent” as a display of respect to authority, whom in this case, also happens to be the perpetrator.

We need to change the way we respond to child sexual abuse.
It’s not enough to merely acknowledge our children’s rights. The increasing reluctance of the police to record and report such cases must also be regulated. It takes education and awareness. Not just with a presentation binder of documents and notes. But perhaps a grand, national showcase from highlighting the issue to parents, teachers (religious and academic), peers and coaches all the way to training the communities, agencies, authorities and officers.

Learn more about how you can help PS the Children.
PS the Children is a non-profit organisation in Malaysia aiming to build safer communities where children are protected from sexual abuse and exploitation while upholding the rights and dignity of every child. Founded in 1999, PS the Children has reached out to over 20,000 adults and 12,000 children through prevention education, while providing support services to more than 800 survivors of child sexual abuse and their families.

Have an idea about how we can help harness this situation?
Would you like to participate in our cause? We’d love to hear from you.

You may donate to: Protect and Save the Children (CIMB: 800229361-5)
Every cent and every drop of sweat counts! Just RM150 a month can provide one
therapy session for a child.

Or contact PS the Children through email: [email protected] to offer your services or to learn more about the cause at www.psthechildren.org.my

Constitutional Law, Human Rights & Environment Sub-Committee

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