Sexually abused in cycle of guilt

Keeping kids safe: Dr Wan Azizah (centre) with Nancy (left) and co-founder of Yayasan Chow Kit Datuk Hartini Zainuddin viewing the memorandum at HELP University, Kuala Lumpur. — KAMARUL ARIFFIN/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: It is tragic when children who are victims of sexual abuse, especially in cases involving family members, put up with the danger because they don’t want to cause their loved ones any “trouble,” says a senior cop.

Bukit Aman Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division (D11) assistant director Asst Comm Siti Kamsiah Hassan said the perpetrator may be the breadwinner of the family and the victim may not want to risk the family’s welfare or cause them any financial trouble.

“From what I have seen in cases, some of these children are aware of the crime being perpetrated against them, but they are also worried about the long-term effects on the family.

“Even though cases get reported and the perpetrators get charged, it does not resolve the root of the issue because they are not given a solution to the problem.

“You would think that once the abuser is in prison, the problem is resolved but, in most cases, they are not.

“All that gets resolved is via the law and implementation levels, but there is nothing about the victim’s survival,” she said in response to why victims of sexual abuse involving family members are unwilling to come forward.

ACP Siti Kamsiah said the difficult part was that children who do come forward are unable to foresee what would happen next.

This is why there is a need for a comprehensive support system to help victims come out of the abusive cycle while addressing the issue at its core, she said during a townhall session organised by Yayasan Chow Kit entitled ‘Working Together to Enhance Child Protection’ at Help University here yesterday.

The townhall was attended by NGOs and civil society groups that work with children and advocate for children’s rights in the country.

Also present at the event were Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri and Bandar Tun Razak MP Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

The Welfare Department Children’s Division senior assistant director Mohd Ali Taib said that only three out of 10 cases brought to their attention usually come forward.

This is because children usually feel guilty as often the perpetrator is their own father, and they worry about what would happen to their mother, he said.

He cited a case in Johor where a child was found to be seven months pregnant after being sexually abused by her father.

He said the case was reported after a school health check discovered the girl’s pregnancy.

“When we interviewed her, she was more worried about the wellbeing of her sick mother and the welfare of the family once the father was gone.

“There was another case involving a mother who made a pornographic video of her daughter to settle a debt.

“The child was aware of the mother’s wrongdoings but did not report it,” he said, adding that a report was only lodged after the videos were discovered.

Mohd Ali said the department has consistently been advocating and informing children that the information they share is safe if they come forward.

Earlier in her opening speech, Nancy said the ministry was always open to suggestions for new ideas in line with current needs and requirements, because child protection is the responsibility of all levels of society.

In addition, she said her ministry will strengthen cooperation between government agencies, NGOs, communities and families in identifying, reporting and dealing with cases of child abuse or mistreatment.

A memorandum on the need to strengthen child protection services in Malaysia was handed over to Nancy at the event, witnessed by Dr Wan Azizah.

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