AWARENESS: Children are suffering in silence as society turns a blind eye, says city police chief

 KUALA LUMPUR: MANY cases of child abuse go unreported due to apathy by parents and society in general, leaving the victims suffering in silence.

City chief police officer Datuk Mohmad Salleh said many cases were not brought to the attention of the authorities also because of the shame and embarrassment which the victims and their families were likely to endure.

"This is not right. Children, too, have rights. They have the right to see that justice is done, the right to heal from their trauma through professional help," Mohmad said.

He was speaking to more than 500 primary school and kindergarten teachers, as well as representatives from non-governmental organisations, orphanages, hospitals and counsellors at the Senior Police Officers College in Cheras here.

The event was a seminar on creating awareness on child sexual abuse cases.

Between 2009 and 2011, 114 child sexual abuse reports were lodged with the police here. In the first six months of this year, police received 10 reports.

"I am quite sure that there are many more cases which have gone unreported due to shame and embarrassment or simply because of apathy and indifference.

"Based on experience, the main reason for such cases going unreported is societal indifference. In modern society, everyone minds their own business and does not care about issues outside their homes."

Mohmad pointed out that if adults noticed something was amiss or wrong with the child, they were duty-bound to inform the authorities instead of allowing the victim to suffer in silence.

"If a child looks gloomy, glum, scared, pressured or spends time alone instead of playing with his peers, these are all tell-tale signs and symptoms that they are victims of abuse," Mohmad said.

"In this kind of situations, do not dismiss the issue or take it lightly because indirectly, we are denying the child his or her rights."

He said studies have shown that if authorities took the trouble to help the victims, the suspects are usually caught and in most cases taken out of society."

"The public must be educated on how to prevent cases of sexual abuse against children as they are helpless and unable to defend themselves," Mohmad said.

The day-long seminar, organised by the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation, also saw families of child abuse victims coming out in the open to share their experiences and relate how they overcame the social stigma.