As if recovering from rape or molestation was not enough, teenage survivors of sexual abuse in Jakarta are saying that they have to fight for the right to continue school.
Early in March, ESR, an eighth grade junior high school student in South Jakarta, was gang raped and held prisoner for several nights by around 10 men. ESR met one of her assailants on Facebook.
However, when ESR and her uncle went to school to report the horrific incident, officials suggested that the girl transfer to another school.
“They were afraid that she would be mocked by her friends,” ESR’s uncle told The Jakarta Post over the telephone on Tuesday. “I think it was just a softer way to expel her.”
The uncle, who has not been named to protect the identity of ESR, said that his niece’s close friends remained kind, visiting the girl at his house in Depok, West Java, to which she moved from East Jakarta after she was raped.
ESR’s mother later tried to register the girl at a private school in Depok, only to be rejected given the impending end of the school year, the uncle said. “She is currently getting assistance from Komnas Anak [National Commission on Child Protection] to continue her studies.”
The guidance counsellor at ESR’s school did not return telephone calls and text messages asking for comment.
Unfortunately, ESR is not alone.
In October, a 14-year-old girl in Depok was also reportedly abducted and repeatedly raped by a Facebook acquaintance and his friends.
The teenager, identified as SAS, returned to school after a one-month absence following her ordeal, only to be humiliated in front of other students by the principal.
SAS chose to take her mid-term tests at home.
Mohammad Abduhzen, an education expert from Paramadina University, said that schools should have in place standard procedures for their students who are survivors of violence. The first move, he said, would be to create a secure environment so that abuse survivors could study in comfort.
“Many schools still consider a sexual abuse as a taboo topic that can tarnish their image,” Mohammad said. “This is wrong. These minors are victims and they need to be protected.”
Mohammad also suggested giving survivors the option, not requirement, to transfer to other schools.
Jakarta Education Agency head Taufik Yudi said he was not sure whether officials at ESR’s school gave her such a choice.
“I will tell the principal of the school to reinstate the student,” Taufik told the Post. “The victim’s family can send a letter to the school asking for re-enrollment and, if she wants, distance learning at home.”
Taufik said a school “request” for a student survivor of sexual assault to transfer to another school should not be viewed as an expulsion.
“It is an option. The schools should follow the victim’s decision”, he said.
Taufik said the agency would be ready to assist the ESR if she wanted to transfer to another school at the start of the next school year.
Ni Made Martini Puteri, a criminologist from the University of Indonesia who focuses on child protection, said that the reluctance of school officials to support students who have survived sexual assault was proof of the poor system of protection offered children.
Puteri said that girls suffered discrimination after surviving sexual assault, with people considering them bad girls who asked for it or otherwise provoked their assailants.
“Schools should not just hand over the problem to the victims and their families. These victims should get a psychosocial support, instead of getting forced to defend their rights to an education.”
Martini also urged Jakarta to implement a protection system in the neighborhood level to prevent children becoming the victims and perpetrators of violence.
Recent student-related sex abuse cases
• January: A 14-year-old rape victim drops out after she is bullied by classmates in North Timor Tengah, NTB. The girl was allegedly held in a house in Kefamenanu and raped by six men, including her boyfriend.
• Feb. 9: A 46-year-old former senior high school vice principal is reported to the East Jakarta Police by a third-grader for allegedly forcing her to perform oral sex on four occasions.
• March: A 13-year-old girl tells police she was held for several nights and repeatedly sexually assaulted by a group of boys and men in Condet, East Jakarta. Two of seven men allegedly involved in the case remain at large, police say.
• April 8: A 17-year-old in North Kolaka, North Sulawesi, commits suicide by drinking poison. The senior high school student was reportedly humiliated after she was raped by three men from North Pakue village.
From various sources