Reports of rape are on the rise in Malaysia

According to the police, sexual crimes have escalated nationwide in the last few years, and rape tops these offences.

In 2003, 1,479 police reports were lodged by rape victims. The figure doubled to 3,098 in 2007.

Statistics compiled also show that sexual crimes against the young have jumped, especially rape involving girls aged 16 and below.

According to DSP Zaiton Che Lah; head of the Sexual Crimes Unit under the Sexual Crimes and Children Investigation Division (D11), about 50% of the total number of rape cases each year involve victims aged 16 and below.

A check with various women’s groups, however, reveals that this is far from new and may very well be a conservative figure.

As Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) Penang executive director Loh Cheng Kooi highlights, although the number of rape cases reported has increased, there are many cases that are still unreported.

One reason for this, she says, is because about 80% of sex offenders are either close or known to the victims, such as family members, relatives, neighbours or school bus drivers.

And as these sexual predators hide behind unassuming personas or keep a low profile among the adults in the community, many parents are caught unawares when they “attack” their targeted victims.

This, says Loh, makes it difficult for the young victims to come forward for help as they worry that they will not be believed.

Abby de Vries, programme officer at the All Women’s Action Society (Awam) warns that we should be worried about this phenomenon.

“Usually, the younger they are, the more difficult it is for them to convince the adults that they were raped or sexually abused. Why is this happening? Why do they feel like they cannot tell anyone?”

Most sexual offenders are not only familiar to the targeted victims but they are also good at manipulating them.

Befriending the victim and luring her with gifts or money are classic tactics among sexual predators, she says. However, combined with the inherent culture of shame in our society, it only leads to victims’ reluctance to seek help.

Social works manager with Women’s Aid Organisation, Wong Su Zane argues that whether the victims have received a gift or money from the perpetrator is irrelevant.

The issue is whether a crime has been committed against them, she says, or whether the victims have been forced to perform a sexual act without their consent.

She believes the fear to report is deeply entrenched in victims due to the lack of a system that is supportive of them.

“Whenever a rape happens, the police will ask the victims about what they have done or what they didn’t do to lead to the crime. So the first thing that comes to the mind of most victims is that it is their fault and they could have done something to prevent it.”

The fear is further exacerbated by the advent of technology, she shares.

“Now, when I advise those who seek help from WAO to lodge a police report, their reaction is always: ‘If we do that, the whole world will know!’ They say reporters will be there or someone will blog about it.”

Loh agrees that living in the age of the Internet and mobile technology has created new challenges in the fight against rape.

But most parents either don’t know how to prepare their children to deal with these changes or have no time to prepare their children.”

De Vries agrees that sexual offenders have indeed moved on to new technologically sophisticated modus operandi to trap and force victims into sexual submission.

Pictures and video clips are used to force the victims to continue the sexually abusive “relationship”.

Worse, she adds, the growth of mobile technology and social media network have made it so ubiquitous in our daily life that many young people are unware of the risks.

We are to blame for the hike in the violence against women and young girls, says women’s rights activist and Empower executive director Maria Chin Abdullah.

As she sees it, Malaysian society has failed to respond to the new wired world where children have a wider accessibility and exposure to violence and sex.

Parents and schools who suspect that something sexually insiduous is happening to their children to come forward to seek help from the police.

Extracts from a longer article at http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/8/1/nation/6775682&sec=nation



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