By Mariam Mokhtar
It is very hard to convince people that children are more likely to suffer sexual abuse from the people whom they trust, such as relatives and close friends, than from strangers. Adults who commit a sexual crime, involving children, are breaking the law. They cause extreme distress to the families of the victims and they cause severe damage to the children whom they sexually abuse.
On January 16, it was reported that an engineer from Ipoh had been found guilty of sexually abusing 31 boys, who were aged between 11 and 15 years old, in Singapore. He had arrived on the island, in 2009, to work as a quality assurance engineer. He committed his sexual crimes between November 2009 and June 2012.
The charges are manifold. Yap Weng Wah was found guilty of 12 charges of sexual penetration of a minor. He was also told that an additional 63 charges of sexual penetration would be considered against him, as well as one for acquiring a child, to commit a sexual act.
On his arrival in Singapore, he used different identities on Facebook to groom the children by befriending them first. He won their trust before meeting them and abusing them. He committed his indecent acts in a variety of places, including public places such as swimming complexes, a public park, the public toilets in shopping complexes, his apartment and also hotel rooms.
To add to the trauma of the children, Yap recorded the sexual abuse on his mobile phone before storing the explicit scenes and details of each victim, in his laptop. Over 2000 videos of the indecent acts were discovered by the police during a raid, following a police report that was made against him.
It was also reported that some of his victims continued to be his friends, despite the abuse. This is another trait of the sexual predator. They have interests or hobbies which match those of the child. They also offer presents to the child to win his affection.
Whilst there is much anger and revulsion against the acts, we must be clear that the people who commit these sexual crimes against children, must be pursued and punished.
So how do you protect your child against these sexual predators?
Instead of creating more alarm in your child, try and talk to him and tell him that certain parts of their body are private and that if anyone touches these parts, they must tell their parents or someone whom they trust.
Some of the tips include telling children that they must not keep secrets, which make them feel uncomfortable. They should also be told of the dangers of the internet and that some bad adults may pretend to be children, to gain their friendship.
If possible, children should never go into a public toilet on their own and that they should go to school, with a friend. Finally, parents should always know the whereabouts of their children, who they are with and what they are doing. All too often, parents do not have a clue who their children are really with, when they claim to be with a friend.
Sometimes, despite doing the best we can to protect our child, the judicial system betrays both the victims and their families. It is widely known that sex offenders are frequently not punished.
Child sexual abuse is rampant and although various NGOs will support both the victim and their families through their psychological trauma, it may be several years before a case goes to trial. The long wait and the hope for justice, does not help the victims. As one social worker said, “It seems that the judge has more sympathy for the sex offender than for the child victim.”
By Mariam Mokhtar