KANGAR (Bernama): The number of cases involving paedophilia in Perlis rose by 38% in 2019 compared to the previous year, according to state police chief Datuk Surina Saad.
She attributed the increase to the existence of the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 and higher awareness of paedophilia among the public.
"The Act has helped the police to haul more child sex offenders before the court," she told Bernama, adding that the legislation has also facilitated the prosecution process as only the victim's statement, witness' evidence and video support are needed.
"In addition, evidence or description of the incident can be given in camera or via video recording as most of the victims would be too traumatised to speak about it."
According to Surina, since the implementation of the Sexual Offences Against Children Act two years ago, more people were coming forward to report cases involving paedophilia. This, she said, was a good thing because keeping such incidents under wraps would only encourage the perpetrators to continue sexually assaulting children.
She added that it was difficult for the public to identify paedophiles because outwardly they appear normal although they do have the tendency to be loners.
In May 2019, the 28-year-old warden of a religious school hostel in Perlis was sentenced to a total of 228 years in jail and 42 strokes of the rotan after he pleaded guilty to 27 counts of sodomy and sexual assault against five students aged between nine and 15.
The accused had stored numerous sex videos of his victims and had threatened to harm them if they exposed him to the authorities.
According to media reports quoting statistics by the Women, Family and Development Ministry, 22,134 children were sexually abused from 2010 to May 2016, with more than 50% of them raped.
One of the most high-profile cases of paedophilia involved Briton Richard Huckle who was found to have sexually abused about 200 children, most of them in Malaysia, between 2006 and 2014.
In 2016, he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the criminal court in London.
However, on Oct 13,2019, Huckle - described as Britain's worst paedophile - was found dead in prison. UK media reports said he was found stabbed multiple times in his cell near York, north of England.
Surina, meanwhile, said the police's Sexual, Women and Children's Investigations Division (D11) has its own psychologists who provide counselling to the victims so that they are able to relate to the police what they had experienced.
She said efforts taken by D11 to prevent sexual crimes include giving talks to the public, especially parents, to educate them on paedophilia.
"By educating them, we hope they will not hide any incidents related to this crime. Action can be taken against them for concealing such a crime," she added.
Dean of Universiti Malaysia Perlis' School of Human Development and Technocommunication Associate Prof Dr Huzili Hussin, meanwhile, described paedophilia as a psychological disorder that causes abnormal sexual behaviour.
Individuals with this problem are sexually attracted to children.
"Some of them use photographs of children as objects to satisfy their wild fantasies," he said, adding that the victims comprise both girls and boys and are mostly aged 13 and below while the predators are five to 16 years older than them.
Huzili, who is also a psychologist and motivational expert, said individuals suffering from anxiety disorder and depression, as well as drug addicts, may be prone to developing paedophiliac tendencies.
Citing studies carried out by psychologists in the US, he said three to five percent of its male population and less than three percent of its female population are potentially influenced by paedophilia.
"Just imagine out of 100 males, three to five have leanings towards this form of unnatural sex. It is a big number and worrying. We cannot regard this issue as trivial," he told Bernama.
The studies by US psychologists, added Huzili, also found that 20% of children in that country have been victims of paedophilia and that many of the perpetrators themselves have been sexually abused or been victims of paedophiles when they were young.
To prevent their children from falling victim to sexual predators, Huzili said parents should teach them the YRT (yell, run & tell) technique as is the practice in western countries.
"The YRT technique teaches children to shout when they are approached by an individual who wants to take advantage of them. They are then required to run to a safe place, for example, towards their parents and tell them what had happened," he said.
He also said that the authorities should provide support services to victims to enable them to overcome their trauma, as well as monitor and rehabilitate paedophiles.
"Although we already have a law (Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017) to penalise such offenders, we don't have any long-term rehabilitation programme because it involves costs and is time-consuming," he said.
He added that the authorities can also identify potential paedophiles by monitoring their social media usage to check if they have the tendency to share photographs of children undressed.
Crime analyst Kamal Affandi Hashim urged parents to stop the practice of posting photographs of their children playing, bathing or in other poses on social media platforms such as Facebook as the pictures can be used by paedophiles to satisfy their lust.
Kamal Affandi, who is also vice-chairman of the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation, also called for efforts to provide protection and support services to victims of paedophiles because so far no effort has been made to take care of their welfare. - Bernama