Tag Archives: child abuse

The little girl from Menglembu

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Thinking Allowed

By Mariam Mokhtar

 

The little girl from MenglembuNews emerged on 16 August, that a defenceless five-year-old was in critical condition and fighting for her life in intensive care at the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital. The girl, who is suspected to have special needs, was allegedly a victim of child abuse.

Neighbours of the girl’s family declined to talk but one alleged that the victim was often caned severely by her mother. Another unsubstantiated source alleged that the victim was a quiet girl but she would often hurt herself by banging her head against the wall.

Three days after she was admitted, the head of the paediatric department Dr Amar Singh said that the child remained unconscious and had not shown any visible movement. When she was first rushed to hospital, she had to be resuscitated.

The girl’s father said that his daughter had been taken ill with high fever but doctors who examined her subsequently found bruising, cane marks and other scars on her head and body. The obvious signs of abuse prompted them to lodge a police report. Although the medical staff were unable to confirm how the wounds had been inflicted, they knew that the injuries were unlikely to be self-inflicted, because of their severity.

Although the doctors suspected possible internal injuries, they said that scans could only be performed once the victim’s condition had improved.

The day after the report was made, the girl’s parents were arrested at their home in Menglembu, and subsequently remanded in custody for five days. The Ipoh OCPD Asst Comm Sum Chang Keong said that the 39-year-old father and his 30-year-old wife were being investigated under Section 325 of the Penal Code for causing grievous hurt.

The Perak Women Development, Family, Community Welfare and National Integration committee chairman Rusnah Kassim said that the victim’s siblings, who were two and seven-years-old, had no signs of abuse and were being cared for by the Welfare Department.

Rusnah urged parents of special needs children to seek help with medical treatment, and support from groups and welfare homes. She warned parents that abuse of the child was not a form of discipline. She also stressed that neighbours could be more pro-active and alert the authorities if they were to notice or hear signs of child abuse.

In early August, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim claimed that in 2012, there were 3831 cases of child abuse, a rise of 12 per cent over the previous year. She said that in the first three months of this year, 1023 child abuse cases had been reported and that 669 of the victims were girls.

Rohani said that her ministry had various preventive measures to address the issue of abuse. Short-term measures would involve taking the child into a welfare home or the home of a guardian appointed by the court. Long-term measures would involve the various government agencies like the police, health and education ministries, and the social welfare department working in concert with the community.

Citing problems such as financial worries or work problems as the root cause of abuse, Rohani warned parents not to take out their frustrations on their children but to seek professional help instead.

No sentence that is passed down to the perpetrators of the abuse will undo the damage that has been inflicted on the children, who will have to bear the mental and physical scars for the rest of their lives.

Whenever a case of child abuse is highlighted in the papers, we hope that the particular case will be the last and that lessons will be learnt from the investigations that were conducted, but there are always more cases.

A child is more likely to be abused by a trusted adult, like a parent or a close family member, rather than by a stranger.

Children who are abused usually show unusual behaviour traits. They are highly distressed. Some may show signs of starvation, emaciation and may scavenge for food in bins. Other signs of abuse in the child, are neglect, manifested in an unkempt or dirty appearance. Sometimes, children are forced to lie to those who enquire about their bruising, with the claim that they sustained the injuries in a fall.

Many children are afraid of telling others about their abuse. Some are ashamed. They may be bullied or bribed into keeping the abuse secret. They are afraid that if they were to tell someone of their abuse, they would be responsible for the family unit being split up. Children may harbour fears of being separated from their parent, despite the parent being an abuser.

Some years ago, the Information Minister suggested more programmes to highlight child abuse. Was any feedback received about the success or failure of these programmes?

It was reported that in 2009, the Welfare Department established 139 centres at state and district levels throughout Malaysia, in which high-risk families and their children could receive counselling and child care services. Are these units successfully providing the necessary psychological and motivational support to the needy?

Many Malaysians wrongly believe that child protection is the job of the government or the NGOs. It is not. The protection of the child is mainly the parents responsibility, and to a certain extent, also the community’s responsibility.

Whilst education and community-based programmes on the prevention of child abuse may have helped create some awareness, many individuals are still reluctant to interfere when they suspect that a child is being abused. Most people are reluctant to be called busybodies.

Perhaps, if neighbours or close family members had intervened, their actions may have helped prevent the tragedy that befell the little girl from Menglembu.

Sadly, as Ipoh Echo goes to print, news came that the little girl has succumbed to her injuries. The case has now become one of murder.

 

Horrific and Unforgivable: another child dies

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By Mariam Mokhtar

On August 15, the mainstream papers reported the death of a four-year-old girl. She had allegedly died after being abused by her mother’s boyfriend. The victim, J. Pavitra, had been brought by her 33-year-old mother to a 1Malaysia Klinik in Bercham, because she was ill. Clinicians confirmed that the child had died and subsequently contacted both the police and the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital for a post-mortem to be conducted.

Tests confirmed that the cause of death was internal bleeding but her body bore evidence of constant abuse. At the time of her death, she also had fresh injuries on her chest, as well as many older bruises.

Pavitra’s father had died two years ago and she was the youngest of four children. Her older brothers, aged 13 and 15 years, were placed in an orphanage in Taiping whilst her youngest brother aged six, had been adopted by a relative. Pavitra lived with her mother and the mother’s boyfriend, a part-time security guard.

State Criminal Investigation Department chief, Senior Assistant Commissioner Mohd Dzuraidi Ibrahim said that Pavitra’s mother was arrested while waiting to claim her daughter’s body from the hospital morgue whilst the boyfriend was detained at their home in Kampung Tawas, later that day. The case has been classified as murder and both people were remanded in custody, pending investigation. In a plea for witnesses to facilitate with inquiries, Dzuraidi said, “We urge the neighbours, and others with information, to assist us.”

Undetected Abuse

When we read about Pavitra’s death, were we numb with shock, or numbed with indifference because it is yet another case of a child being abused? The beating which Pavitra suffered, at the hands of people who should have cared and protected her, is shocking. Her death is not the first, nor will it be the last, but how did her continual abuse go undetected by family members, neighbours and friends?

There are services which the public can call to highlight their concerns about child abuse. One of them is Talian NUR, telephone 15999. Are people not aware that such hotlines exist? Are people too scared to complain in case they are dragged deeper into something with which they want no connection? Sometimes, the system of reporting causes paranoia in the people who try to report the abuses.

Are people afraid of reprisals from the perpetrators of the crime? Are people so preoccupied with their own lives, that they can ignore a child’s screams? Were they so distressed by the pleas of the child that they shut out her cries for help? Were members of the family ashamed, so did not report the abuse?

A 4-year-old has died. Someone must have heard something or noticed something unusual.

A child who is repeatedly hit will show symptoms of abuse – physically, mentally and behaviourally. Unless she has been hidden away, family members like her grandparents or aunts and uncles, or the neighbours must have suspected something. If there had been early intervention to stop the beatings and the sustained abuse, Pavitra might still be alive today.

We may wonder why the mother did not do more to protect her child. Did she feel anger, frustration and sadness after the death of her husband and so could not cope? After her loss, her family was disbanded. Did this compound her sorrow?

Did she enter into an abusive relationship, with her boyfriend and became stuck in a vicious circle of hopelessness? As the country suffers an economic downturn, it is the women who suffer more, as there are fewer jobs on offer, the cost for child care increases and families have to tighten their belts further.

Public Awareness

Malaysians must show more concern at the rise in cases of child abuse and more should be done to protect children. Public awareness needs to be increased, and people should be empowered and encouraged to become personally involved and support families and parents. Contrary to popular opinion, children suffer the most abuse from people they know, like parents, relatives and babysitters. Not strangers.

Child abuse is an offence in Malaysia and is punishable under the Child Act 2001 and the Penal Code 1997. Offenders may be liable for a maximum fine of RM50k and a prison term of 20 years, or both depending on the offence. Offenders may also be whipped.

Older children fear the threat of more severe ‘punishment’ by their abusers and so very few cases are reported. Younger children do not have the ability to say that they are abused and many cases remain undetected.

The “Talian NUR” hotline (15999) is the 24-hour helpline, which enables the authorities to intervene, for victims of domestic violence and child abuse. Last June, calls to NUR through public telephone booths in schools were made free. Calls are handled by trained people and in four languages; Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin and Tamil.

No one will consider you a busybody or hold you responsible for the break-up of a family should you report a child who is being abused or neglected; but you could end up saving a life.

Child Safety Programme in Batang Padang

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Soroptimist International (SI) Ipoh and Perak Women for Women (PWW), together with Batang Padang District Education Department will be organising a one-day interactive workshop on “Be Smart Be Safe” for school counsellors and teachers from primary schools at Dewan Sukan Batang Padang in Tapah on November 9.

The “Be Smart Be Safe” programme is used as part of the training to teach participants how to conduct prevention programmes for children. The training begins with an introduction lecture on ‘What is Child Sexual Abuse’, and continues with a short game on ‘Perception and Reality of Child Sexual Abuse’. At the third session, participants watch a video ‘Ok Tak Ok Siri 2’ which teaches children about safety which includes “good touch” and “bad touch”; the second half of the day is spent briefing them on how to use the video to run a personal safety programme for the children. Each participant is given a dry-run to practise what they have learnt. The one-day interactive training will be conducted by trained facilitators from Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) Penang.

This programme has been conducted with the approval of the Ministry of Education and has covered all primary school counsellors in Kinta Utara and Kinta Selatan districts, Selama & Larut Matang and now in Batang Padang district. They hope to run this programme in all districts in Perak so that teachers and school counsellors in turn will be able to conduct this child safety programme at their respective schools.

Educators, care-givers, preschool teachers and parents who are interested in this programme can contact PWW at 05-5469715 for further details.