By Tan Mei Kuan

Yayasan Sultan Idris Shah (YSIS) hosted a talk on awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse by Sumathi Annamalai, a national trainer from Protect and Save the Children, an NGO founded in 2002 and based in Kuala Lumpur. The enlightening 5-hour session was held on Sunday, April 7.

Sumathi is also a university lecturer majoring in early childhood education and special needs, as well as a former ICU staff nurse in a hospital.

According to her, sexual abuse takes place when a person in power coerces, tricks and/or forces a child to take part in sexual activity, using the child for his or her own sexual gratification. Acts of child sexual abuse can be verbal (verbal sexual stimulation, obscene telephone calls), visual (exhibitionism, peeping, obscene messages, showing pornography to a child, photographing a child in sexual poses, etc.) and physical (rape, prostitution, forced masturbation, inserting objects into private body parts, etc.).

“It is very important to understand that child sexual abuse is not just rape but includes a range of different sexual acts. According to data from Reuters dated April 5, 2017, only 140 of the 12,987 cases of child sexual abuse reported to police between 2012 and July 2016 resulted in convictions,” Sumathi emphasized.

“Grooming process is how a person in power gains the trust of a child in order to wear away personal boundaries and gain sexual access. First, the sex offender creates opportunities and targets a child. Then, the sex offender introduces physical touch and sexual touch. The next stage is keeping the secret as the hallmark of child sexual abuse is secrecy. Online grooming happens through sexting and sending nude photos,” she explained.

Protect and Save the Children offers services in the form of prevention (training and workshop), intervention (supporting through the reporting process), advocacy (partnership building and policy change) and healing (therapeutic and counselling services). For more info, call 03 7957 4344 or 03 7956 4355. Readers can email to protect@psthechildren.org.my