PETALING JAYA: Child experts have hit out at a minister for his comments in response to a teenage actress’ claims of sexual harassment against her father.
They feel that it is a call for help that should be handled with care.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs has been heavily criticised for saying that the 15-year-old should not have “shamed” herself and her father for going public with her allegations.
Datuk Idris Ahmad said the actress should have lodged a police report instead in order to receive legal defence and protection from any potential threat.
Child experts said the girl should not be blamed for speaking up.
Suriana Welfare Society chairman James Nayagam said the minister’s statement is without substance and the government needs child abuse experts to speak on the issue.
“Experts or advisers such as a panel of doctors should be consulted first before a statement on child abuse is made,” he said.
He added that the child actress appeared to be in a state of desperation, and there were no guidelines (on reporting about abuse).
“Even if there are, people do not know about them.
“In about 80% of child abuse cases, the child will confide in her classmate. They do not know where to turn to or who to confide in.
“We are here to protect children, and to pick the child out of danger,” he said.
Nayagam said in his 40 years of dealing with child abuse cases, victims were often afraid to lodge police reports.
“There is no child who will go to a police station and report her own father.
“The victims are afraid whether people will believe them or if they will be victimised,” he said.
He felt that the actress had found an avenue to talk about her abuse and was brave enough to do it.
He also suggested proper guidelines be drawn up for reporting child abuse.
Consultant paediatrician and child rights advocate Datuk Dr Amar-Singh HSS said the girl should be supported, not vilified.
“The more we encourage children to speak up about this huge problem, the safer it will be for all children,” he said.
He added that child abuse victims should consult paediatricians to guide them on the next course of action.
Dr Amar noted that the Child Act 2001 does not require a police report to be made.
“Suspicion of abuse, as in this case, is sufficient for the authorities, especially the Welfare Department, to act immediately,” he said.
Child activist Datuk Dr Hartini Zainuddin said it was “ridiculous” that the statement came from a religious minister and that Idris ought to understand that the child’s needs and protection are paramount in cases of sexual abuse.
“Her need to expose her abuse and therefore herself and the alleged abuser publicly is obviously her way of getting help,” she said.
“Who are we to judge? Have we put ourselves in her shoes?”
Hartini urged policy makers to find ways to work with others to get to the root cause of abuse while protecting the child.
On Monday, the police said the actress’ father had the day before made a report regarding the allegations at the Bandar Baharu station in Kedah.
The report was made after his daughter is said to have shared her life story while appearing as a guest on a programme on YouTube.
The actress, too, lodged a police report on Monday night, claiming that the incidents – including playing pornographic movies on his mobile phone for her to watch – had happened between 2013 and 2017.
On Tuesday, the police arrested the man in Kedah and are investigating the case for neglecting a child and possession of pornographic material.