Story by K.H. Ong
Pix by Adleena Rahayu Ahmad Radzi
PENANG Local Government, Traffic Management and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow launched a body safety education campaign and book in the hope that the community can play a role in preventing the increase of child sexual abuse.
“It is indeed alarming to know that one out of every three girls and one out of every six boys is a victim of child sexual abuse before their 18th birthday,” Chow said before launching the campaign at The Top in Komtar on April 3.
“This means that in this hall, a third of us would have been victims of child sexual abuse. That is how serious this is. I dare not imagine the trauma that a young victim will have to go through for the rest of her or his life.
“Many people still do not realise how important it is to have the Body Safety talk with our children. It is still considered a taboo to address the issue in some parts of our country. And there are parents who have decided not to report sexual abuse cases for fear of bringing shame to the family.”
The book, titled ‘Educate Your Children to Protect Themselves’ was produced after several months of hard work by the team from Bold Inspiration, exco member Chong Eng’s office and BPEN, with inputs from Women’s Centre for Change (WCC), Unicef Malaysia and several individuals.
Also present at the launching were Chong who’s state Youth & Sports, Women, Family and Community Development Committee chairperson, IJM senior manager Datuk Toh Chin Leong, Sungai Pinang assemblymember Lim Siew Khim, forum moderator Devi Theresa, guest panellist Sharon Lim, Penang Adventist Hospital consultant clinical psychologist Dr Lynne Yong Ee Lin, social activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi and WCC executive director Loh Cheng Kooi.
Based on an article in The Star in 2017, Chow said Malaysia has recorded more than 5,000 cases of child sexual abuse in the last five years – a whopping 1,000 cases per year.
“What about those cases that are not reported? For every case reported, there may be five cases that went unreported,” he said adding that a suggestion for a raped victim to be married by the rapist is an alarming suggestion for a solution to the problem.
“Often, strangers are not the ones we should be extra cautious of. According to the Protest and Save The Children founding director Madeleine Yong, she said more than 90% of the abusers are people that are known or trusted by the victim and his or her family.”
Chow said the predators are like wolves in sheep’s clothing, citing Richard Huckle as he was posing as a teacher, photographer and a devout Christian when committing 71 counts of serious sexual offences against children.
Chow also said the Malaysian Child Act 2017 is inadequate to protect children’s rights and there is no law that brings a fair punishment to the predators. Under the amended Malaysian Law for Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017, the heaviest penalty for sexual abuse without sexual act is punishable only with jail time, not exceeding 20 years jail plus whipping.
While educating ourselves on what child sexual abuse is, Chow advised parents to watch out for telltale signs of abuse in their children like fear of a certain adult, difficulty in making friends, sudden changes in attitude, hostility and inappropriate behaviour.
Chow encouraged everyone to lend a helping hand to make the world a safer place for kids.
Earlier in her speech, Chong Eng said she was supportive of the campaign and publication of the book after being shown well-researched materials and “Body Safety” written by Jaynee Sanders published through E2E website.
“I felt it’s time the Penang state government took up the task of publishing a book for all parents in Penang for them to teach their children about body safety and to equip children with knowledge to protect themselves,” she told all who were present.
“Prevention is better than cure. Let’s take the extra precaution rather than waiting for crime to happen to our beloved children.
“Children cannot do it without their parents. Some parents need help to help their children. The state government also needs your help to reach out to all families. None of us can do it alone but together we can do it.”