Written by Daphne Iking, TV Personality, Emcee, Entrepreneur & Mother of Three Children.
“We found bruises around her mouth and private areas’.
The victim was six-months old. This was just one of the many horror stories told to me when I came onboard the #MPsAgainstPredators Campaign a few months back. I was shocked, disgusted, angry and frightened. I still am. I have three young children – two girls and a baby boy. If you assume child sexual crimes only happens to girls, think again.
The Stop Child Sexual Crimes National Seminar held recently revealed shocking statistics and information that were troubling to say the least.
Eight out of ten children who are sexually abused know their abuser. They could be family members or friends, neighbours or babysitters and many hold responsible positions in society. Some of these abusers have adult sexual relationships and are not solely, or even mainly sexually interested in children. Most abusers are men, but some are women. Female victims usually report the abuse, but there are male victims who may or may not be as courageous to “speak out” due to many reasons. One them is due to the definition of rape.
Malaysian law narrowly defines rape as the penetration of the men's private part into the women's private part without her consent. What if the perpetrator is a female raping a boy? Or a man raping another male? Malaysian punishment is more “lenient” to the perpetrator of a male rape victim.
Though most perpetrators are people the victim knows, the trend is slowly expanding to strangers; no thanks to the advancement of social media and chat platforms which enables predators to use a process called “grooming”, where they befriend and establish an emotional connection with a child in order to sexually abuse them.
And that is why I am so glad that our Malaysian lawmakers from both sides are setting their political differences aside to pass the new Child Sexual Crimes Bill. Although this is absolutely wonderful news, there is still more that will be required in combating child sexual crimes and I honestly feel parents play the biggest role in educating our children on sex education to empower them against child sexual crimes.
Founder of Bravehearts Foundation, Hetty Johnston suggests we start sex education as early as three-years old.
While this seems ‘ideal’, it proves to be more complicated than we think. For starters, we assume parents would never hurt their child in ANY way. Unfortunately, there are parents who abuse their own child. And then there is the cultural and religious taboo where parents are too ‘shy’ to discuss sex with their children. Many think teaching sex education will only encourage children into premarital sex; I say it empowers a child in responsible and wise decision-making.
The assumption that sex education is the teaching of the act itself, but it’s more than just that. It is about knowing how your body works and why we need to respect the boundaries.
So firstly, educate your child about their reproductive system and talk to them about their sexual health.
I tell my children at a very young age that their private parts are ‘private’ for a reason and what are “healthy touches”. I also refer to their genitals as vagina, penis, breasts, buttocks; and not “karipap”, “mei mei”, “kukubird” and “nenen”. Reason being, I was told that if your child were to tell you that “Uncle touched my “mei mei”, it would be less effective than, “ Mama, that Uncle touched my Vagina!” which would trigger a faster response.
Second, put your child first.
An activist had to make a difficult decision when she found out her father in-law had been sexually molesting her then six-year old daughter. Fortunately for her, her husband was “on their side” too. The safety and self-esteem of their child was more important than anyone’s embarrassment, inconvenience or offense. As Johnston mentions, the shame should not be on the victim or the family of the victim. The shame should be on the perpetrator.
Thirdly, listen to your children and teach them not to keep unsafe secrets. Communication is so crucial between a parent and the child.
Most abusers cultivate a strong relationship with their victims before doing anything sexual. Often, they start by testing a child’s boundaries by being inappropriate in other ways. I read somewhere that a parent should once in a while, in a calm, conversational way, ask the child if anything was bothering or worrying him/her.
Don’t tease, even if the child says something ‘silly’ and avoid (easier said than done) lecturing or scolding at that moment, even if the child has done something wrong.
According to Kidpower.org, some pedophiles give alcohol or drugs as a way to get them to lower their inhibitions, molesting them while they are unconscious or asleep.
They might then threaten their victims by getting them into trouble if the child tells their parents. Make sure you tell your child that even if he or she makes a mistake or did something wrong, that you, as the parent will still love and help him/her. Ensure an environment that the child knows what sexual abuse is and that they have a safe haven to speak up and report it if it happens to him or her.
Finally, make sure you know who and what others is doing with your children.
Remember that anyone can be an abuser. Don’t just trust someone because they are part of a reputable organization or religious body or school. Check their background and trust your gut feeling about someone or something. “Watch our for someone who seems to single out certain kids for special attention and private relationships and who seeks social and recreational opportunities to be alone with kids without other adults there,” adds Irene van der Zande, Founder and Executive Director of Kidpower.
Combating Child Sexual Crimes is a collective effort and we need to start NOW to stop it.
Daphne Iking is an Award winning actress and TV personality. Co-founder of both Lebosi Sdn Bhd and BigIDIA, she is also an advocate for solar powered products and consults corporate leaders in Media Handling and Public Speaking.
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