More needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable members of our society
I HAD the chance of moderating breakout session for the Parents, Community and Non-Governmental Organisations Group during the “Stop Children Sexual Crimes” national seminar held recently.
The general sentiment of the crowd was that the responsibility to combat child sexual crimes has to be a collective effort.
Sex education should be taught at a very early stage, not just by school teachers, but by parents too.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done because not many parents are able to do that due to cultural or religious taboos thus the school remains as a key agency.
Hetty Johnston, the founder and executive chairman of Bravehearts Foundation, an organisation to combat the scourge of child sexual abuse in Australia, says sex education should be taught as early as three years old.
In Australia, they have a nursery song which has effectively taught young children describing which parts of their bodies are their private parts and they should be just that – private.
The responsibility of the father in teaching sex education is equally important.
Most households leave it to the mothers to talk about it; even then, it is still a taboo topic.
Again, parents need to address this issue as it is all about education to empower to ensure our children are protected.If there was one thing I felt was missing from the panel discussion, it would be the presence of religious bodies.
These entities need to be more open in educating the public about sex education and raising awareness about sex crimes.
Educating does not mean we are encouraging the act, but we are empowering our children to make wise decisions.
Participants shared their frustration in reporting the crime, from the insufficiency of knowledge and know–how, to the lack of soft skills of the investigative officers when reporting the crime.
The process is long, lengthy, tedious and embarrassing.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Saroja Egamparam says that training of soft skills among the police force which includes how to talk to the victims, what the Standards of Procedures are and the type of language to use when communicating with the victims.
There was a proposal for police, teacher and medical trainees be given the required skills and knowledge to handle cases of sexual crimes against children.
For the Social Welfare Department, the proposed Social Work Act is needed to ensure Child Protection Officers have the required professional training.
I applaud the announcement made by our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak with regards to the setting up of a Specialised Child Court.
I am confident this would surely expedite legal proceedings against offenders.
The authorities and NGOs dealing with human traffickers and their victims, usually women and young children, need to work closely with each other and those protecting the syndicates, needs to be weeded out fast.
The hall was moved to tears by the raw and courageous sharing of two people; both of whom have daughters sexually assaulted by a family member and how they fought and continue to fight for their child’s dignity to ensure the offenders were punished.
The sharing was poignant as many victims do not come forward to report to the authorities because there is the fear that their story will not be heard, let alone believed or validated.
The victims themselves are often isolated by their own fear, shame and self-persecution.
There is also the concerns about confidentiality and the lack of faith in the establishment or with the authorities.
As Johnston points out, “The shame should not belong to the victim.
“The shame should not belong to the family members of the victim.
“The shame belongs to the offender.
“We have to stand up for our children”.
There needs to be a mentality shift that a crime is a crime and no one should protect the offender.
Mohd Shazali from the Malaysian Federation of the Deaf highlighted the need for a professional sign language interpreter to assist the disabled victims like those who are deaf and mute.
Can you imagine how scary and difficult it is already for a normal, young child to explain this horrible ordeal?
What more a child with intellectual disabilities or are mentally/physically challenged!
Imagine the struggle trying to explain their ordeal to the doctor, or the investigative officer or judge without a professional interpreter!
He also said that teachers should not be tasked with doing interpretation at the child courts because they are educators and not professional communication providers.
Sometimes, the case gets thrown out due to lack of evidence or difficulty in getting the report out.
The issue of safety in schools was also raised at the seminar.
Proposals include to stop outsourcing guards to schools and instead make them employees of the Education Ministry to ensure better background checks on the guards.
I hope the fight against child sex predators does not just stop here as we have a long way more in combating child sex crimes.
There needs to be more awareness to explain what child sexual abuse is and what the procedures are to report the abuse.
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