KUALA LUMPUR: An average of five children are abused every week in the country, and the main culprits are babysitters and maids.
Fathers make up the second largest number of abusers, according to police statistics. (See graphic)
Most of the victims are boys and the most vulnerable age group is between one and seven years.
Bukit Aman principal assistant director of D11 (sexual crimes, domestic violence and child abuse investigations division) Asst Comm Hamidah Yunus said 295 cases of child abuse were recorded last year, a 3.5% increase from 2012.
Eighty-nine of the 312 suspected abusers were babysitters or maids while 76 of them were the fathers of the children, she told The Star.
The rest were mothers, relatives, teachers and others.
Eight children were recorded to have died from physical abuse last year, one more than in 2012.
Under the Child Act 2001, children are defined as those aged below 18.
Consultant psychiatrist Prof Dr Mohamad Hussain Habil said boys were generally more active and rebellious than girls, making them more prone to abuse.
“Children aged between one and seven also require a lot of supervision as they are active and may easily dirty or break things.
“Maids often have to run after them. They may display their anger towards the kids if they did not know how to cope. Many of them have to multi-task and are pressured by expectations from employers.”
Dr Mohamad Hussain said fathers who were abused when they were young might also repeat the vicious cycle on their own children.
“Child abuse victims are 10 times more likely to become perpetrators themselves than someone who has never been abused,” he said.
Another consultant psychiatrist, Dr Ting Joe Hang, said it was possible that child abuse cases were under-reported as some incidents might have been “hushed up” if the abuser was someone within the family.
“It is ‘easier’ to report maids or babysitters to the police than one’s own flesh and blood. Some overseas studies have shown that most child abusers are family members,” he said.
Some parents have also taken precautionary measures to ensure the safety of their children who are left with maids at home.
A 38-year-old businessman, who wanted to be known only as Jason, said he once installed a fake CCTV camera in the baby room so that his maid would believe she was being watched.
“My wife is now a stay-at-home mother, so our current maid only assists in looking after our two sons. However, if both of us are working, I will definitely install a camera to monitor our maid,” he said.