Shame among reasons sexual crimes not reported, hard to curb – Experts

01 Jan 2024 01:10pm
Image for illustrative purposes only. AI generated by Sinar Daily
Image for illustrative purposes only. AI generated by Sinar Daily

SHAH ALAM - To curb sexual crimes and exploitation involving children, experts suggest first dismantling the culture of shame associated with talking about sexual education while also incorporating more compassion when dealing with victims of sexual crimes.

Universiti Malaya Senior Lecturer and Criminologist Dr Haezreena Begum drew attention to the pervasive silence surrounding child sexual abuse.

“There is a lot of shame associated with reporting sexual crimes,” she told Sinar Daily.

Haezreena highlighted that most often, perpetrators of sexual crimes involving children were people whom the victim had already known.

“It could be either a family member, a relative, or a family friend.

“This shows that there is a high possibility that the people surrounding them are already aware of the problem.

“Take for instance the case of a father abusing his child. In some cases, the mother does eventually become aware of the abuse, but decides to not report the crime because they are ashamed,” she said.

Haezreena pointed out that the culture of ‘saving face’ and ‘menjaga aib’ had been a great detriment to the advancement of child protection and welfare in our society.

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“In fact, the problem does not start there,

“Even in schools, there are teachers who would rather skip teaching reproductive health topics, deeming it to be inappropriate if spoken with children,” she said.

She stressed that avoidance of such topic would hinder the efforts of teaching children important sexual education knowledge such as safe touch, unsafe touch, and what to do if they were touched inappropriately.

“I believe that this should at least be a compulsory course in education institutions.

“With this knowledge, the victims would know what to do and where to seek help if they were inflicted,” she said.

Haezreena also highlighted the importance of incorporating more nuance and compassion when approaching children who have experienced sexual abuse and violence.

“You cannot deal with a 16-year-old the same way as how you deal with a five-year-old. Both of them possess different cognitive levels and understanding of the gravity of the crime that has been inflicted on them,” she said.

Additionally, the process of reporting sexual crimes could be traumatising and intrusive for victims, especially for child victims who were much younger and vulnerable.

“This is why I believe establishing a special task force tackling child victimisation issues is very crucial in Malaysia.

“This would provide more trained professionals who are adept at handling underage victims of sexual crimes,” she said.

Meanwhile, Yayasan Chow Kit (YCK) founder Datuk Dr Hartini Zainuddin echoed the same stance as Haezreena.

She believed that collaboration could have a broader impact on preventing sexual abuse and promoting child safety.

“We need to work closely with law enforcement, medical professionals, social workers, and legal experts to ensure a coordinated and comprehensive response to cases of child sexual abuse,” she said.

YCK also believed that by fostering strong partnerships and networks, it could aim to ensure that the needs of child victims were addressed holistically and effectively.

“By working with other organisations and agencies, YCK can contribute to collective efforts aimed at raising awareness, advocating for policy changes, and implementing prevention programs that are vital in protecting children from sexual abuse in the first place,” she said.

However, the child activist notes that the most important step in ensuring child safety is by allowing all children access to equity.

Equity in this context refers to the notion that every child should have access to the resources, opportunities, and support they need to thrive, regardless of their background, identity, or circumstances.

Hartini added that achieving equity for all children involves addressing systemic barriers and disparities that prevent some children from accessing the same opportunities and resources as others.

“At YCK, we believe that every child should be able to unlock their full potential.

“By providing a safe space for them, YCK can ensure that the various aspects of a child's well-being and recovery are addressed comprehensively,” she said.

Recently, the Statistics Department reported an increase of child sexual crimes in the country.

In 2022, there were 1,621 reported cases, a 9.5 per cent jump from 1,481 cases in 2021.