As awareness grows, victims come forward
The Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
A recent slew of reported child sex abuse cases occurring in places considered safe for children, such as schools, has shaken many Indonesians who previously thought pedophilia was a distant reality only threatening street children.
More shocking has been that the perpetrators have often been close to their child victims: a school janitor, a neighbor, a stepfather or even a teacher.
The first case, which set off a media frenzy after it was reported last month, was the rape of a 6-year-old kindergarten student at the prestigious Jakarta International School (JIS) committed by outsourced cleaning staff in the school toilet.
Since then, more parents and children have spoken up and reported cases of abuse to the police.
For example, one victim's mother said she had learned that her 4-year-old son had been molested by a neighbor when the boy, while watching news on TV about Sukabumi serial child rapist Emon, asked his mother what 'sodomy' was.
When the mother explained, the boy revealed that he too had been treated by their 13-year-old neighbor the way Emon had treated his victims.
On Friday, the mother of a 17-year-old male reported his tennis coach to the Jakarta Police for an alleged rape attempt that happened about nine months ago. The mother said among the reasons they had decided to speak out now was that many victims had come forward to report their cases to the police.
The Jakarta Police has a special unit to handle reports of abuse against women and children. The unit is usually led by a policewoman and has many policewomen on duty in plainclothes to create a friendly atmosphere.
University of Indonesia (UI) criminologist Josias Simon said that pedophilia is not a new thing in Indonesia. 'Pedophiles have existed and acted in Indonesia for a very long time. It has just been exposed now,' Josias said in an interview.
'The [revelation of the] JIS rape case was a breakthrough for our country. Since the JIS case was exposed to the public, many other cases have been exposed because parents are more aware,' he said.
'It should not take a high-profile case for parents to be aware of child molestation. Parents should not fully trust anyone to take care of their child besides themselves, because pedophiles are known to be kind and friendly toward children.'
UI sexuality and gender expert Irwan Hidayana said many parents were beginning to become more aware of dangers to children and were thus becoming more protective. 'More and more cases are being reported because parents are now more willing to discuss sex with their children,' he added.
Irwan said that the Indonesian custom to regard sexual conversations between a parent and a child as taboo had caused a low level of awareness about sex. 'Parents generally think that sex is something a child will naturally learn about,' he said.
'However, that's wrong. Parents should walk children through sex and their physical development so children know what's wrong and what's right.'
Irwan said that in most cases of child molestation, the victims did not understand that what was being done to them was wrong, and therefore didn't think to tell anyone. Victims could grow up thinking, he went on, that child molestation was normal and then later commit similar crimes against children themselves.
Irwan said many Indonesians still had trouble understanding the meaning of pedophilia and often mistook it for homosexuality.
In other cases, Irwan said, child molestation happened because the perpetrators were unable to fulfill their sexual desire with people their own age, either from insecurity or low self-esteem. They then vent their pent-up desires on an easy target: children. (dwa)
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