Children in lower-income groups at more risk of being victimised

01 Jan 2024 01:05pm
Photo for illustrative purposes only - 123RF
Photo for illustrative purposes only - 123RF

SHAH ALAM - In the midst of the 'silent epidemic' surrounding the sexual exploitation of young children, experts caution the public on the heightened susceptibility of children in lower-income groups to exploitation by child predators.

According to a report published by the Statistics Department (DOSM), sexual crimes involving children have risen from 2021 to 2022.

Among the crimes reported, rape recorded the highest increase alongside incest cases with a spike of almost 10 per cent.

This plight was even more pronounced for children in lower-income groups, as highlighted by Universiti Malaya Senior Lecturer and Criminologist Dr Haezreena Begum.

She said that children in this socioeconomic category were highly susceptible to abuse due to their vulnerability and trust in others.

“With their living situation, it is easier for predators to lure them with sweet promises of money and gifts,” she said.

The criminologist also noted that children in this category often live in cramped living spaces with little to no privacy.

“This living situation provides little private space for children and could potentially put them in danger of being ‘exposed’ inappropriately to others.

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“Additionally, since these children have lived harder lives, there is a normalisation of violence in their daily environment,” she said.

Haezreena said that the normalisation of violence stemmed from seeing unsavoury acts being conducted to the people around them, which caused these children to perceive these actions as ‘normal’.

“Even if they do not like it, this process makes abusive actions less apparent to the victim,” she added.

In contrast, Crime Analyst Kamal Affandi Hashim stated that children in lower income groups might be monitored less by their guardians but children on the other income strata also had less control applied to them.

“In reality, both sides are susceptible to being victimised due to a simple fact - compared to the guardians, the perpetrators have all the time in the world,” he said.

With the added vulnerability, Kamal added that child predators use this to their advantage to commit their crimes.

“Forensic psychiatry expands our knowledge of human behaviour preferences.

“From a psychiatric sense, paedophiles and child predators are people who seek satisfaction by engaging in sexual interaction with a child,” he said.

Kamal added that one thing these people had in common was the amount of time they had at their disposal.

“While child exploitation may be their main objective, the ‘main attraction’ is the adrenaline rush of enticing a victim into their grasp,” he said.

When questioned regarding the surge in sexual crimes involving children, Kamal said that this trend could be a positive signal of increasing crime literacy among members of the public.

“Aggressive advocacy campaigning by the Women, Family, and Community Development Ministry and NGOs have surely shown its results,” he said.

Kamal said that the accessibility alone drew people to report suspicious activities including to get medical or legal protection for the victims.

“Gone were the days when our support system wasn't accessible freely to everybody.,

“Now, anyone can seek help by simply calling 15999 hotline to access multiple facades of services,” he said.