Be Sensitive To Changes In Children To Tackle Sexual Harassment
By Noraidah Abd Karim
KUALA LUMPUR : Be sensitive and see the ‘writing on the wall’ to detect and tackle sexual harrassment in children.
Community activist Wong Lai Cheng offered this advice to parents and told them to be sensitive to changes in their children.
She said, parents must see the ‘changes’ when their children — in a departure from their normal cheerful self — displayed a gloomy disposition or showed signs of being fearful of people or places.
“To prevent children from becoming victims, parents must expose them to early education on sexual harassment, such as how it takes place and how to avoid it, as early as four years of age.
“Other than being provided with skills on how to save themselves when encountering a risky or dangerous situation, the children must be given exposure to know and appreciate their private parts.
“Parents should teach children about their private parts correctly without using disguises, as such methods could cause them (children) to be confused, feel dirty or ticklish,” she said at a Seminar on Awareness on Prevention of Sexual Crimes Against Children here.
Wong, who represents non-governmental organisation ‘Shelter and Save Children for Selangor and Kuala Lumpur’, said children should also understand that the mouth should also be looked after as it could prompt sexual harassment.
The children must be told that only food should be put into the cavity, she added.
According to the Welfare Services Department statistics, child abuse cases went up 21 per cent or 501 cases to 2,780 in 2008, from 2,279 (2007), with 56 per cent of the cases occurring in the Klang Valley.
Of the total, sexual harassment recorded the highest cases at 863, with 95 per cent of the victims comprising children and women.
Wong said sexual harassment against children was defined as an individual behavior in forcing or trying to influence or threaten the victim to carry out sex acts or sexual harassment, using several ways such as putting objects in the mouth, body, anus and inflicting physical pain.
She said sexual harassment could cause physical injuries to children and both pyshological and emotional injuries for the short and long terms, including clinical depression, defects, post-trauma stresses, anxiety and a tendency of causing them to become adult perpetrators (of sexual harassments).
As such, she said, a child’s early knowledge could help them identify if a touch was safe or otherwise, by stressing that no one could touch their private parts except for cleanliness and health reasons, and no one could ask them to touch the private parts of other people.
Wong said, if a child was confused, uncomfortable or asked to keep a secret concerning a touch, he or she could be taught to say “no” and run to tell the parents, and the whole family must be sensitive to changes in the child.
She said when a child started to relate about something, adults or parents needed to play a role by believing in their words and never ever say ‘no’ or ‘but’, because such reactions would increase the stress of the child.
“Children rarely fabricate stories. So, words such as ‘I believe you’ or ‘It is not your fault’ will revive them,” she said.