Victims break silence on child sexual abuse

New book contains stories told by 12 people who were sexually abused as children

When Alice's father started sexually abusing her when she was nine, she did not tell her mother about it, unsure if her mum would believe her. Her father - whom she feared - repeatedly told her not to tell anyone.

Alice (not her real name) told The Straits Times: "I was afraid that it (reporting the abuse) would be life-changing for everyone."

It took about a year before she finally confided in her teacher.

She had no clue how to stop the abuse. But even then, she never wanted to put her dad in jail.

After her teacher reported the abuse, her father was sentenced to 20 years in jail and her relationship with her mother, who was angry with her and became depressed, deteriorated. Her two older sisters also had to deal with gossip.

Now 29, Alice works in a charity. The shame, guilt and pain from the abuse that took place almost 20 years ago still lingers.

"There was a lot of pain and tears and I wished my family didn't have to suffer the way they did," she said. "He was a breadwinner, husband, father, son and sibling to my family members and his absence left a void in their lives too."

The book will be launched on Nov 15. The authors started Yakin to help people who were sexually violated when they were children.
The book will be launched on Nov 15. The authors started Yakin to help people who were sexually violated when they were children. PHOTO: EIRLIANI ABDUL RAHMAN

Her story is one of 12, told by people who were sexually abused when they were children, in a book, Survivors: Breaking The Silence On Child Sexual Abuse. It will be launched on Nov 15.

It was written by Ms Eirliani Abdul Rahman, executive director of Youth Adult Survivors and Kin in Need (Yakin), and Dr Daniel Fung, chairman of the Institute of Mental Health's medical board.

The pair started Yakin to help people who were sexually violated as children, and there are plans to start programmes to help adult survivors of sexual abuse.

Last year, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) investigated 107 reports of sexual abuse of children under 16. This was 30 per cent more than the 82 cases in 2015 and more than double the 45 cases in 2009.

In most cases, the perpetrator was a family member.

While last year's figures are preliminary, an MSF spokesman said the increase in the number of reports is partly due to more professionals, from social workers to educators to healthcare staff, having been trained by MSF to spot abuse. The ministry has also introduced more rigorous screening tools that have improved the detection, reporting and management of child abuse cases.

The Singapore Children's Society has also started a programme to teach pre-schoolers how to protect themselves, by teaching them the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching, and what to do if they have been sexually abused.

 
 

The MSF recently handled a case involving a 14-year-old girl who had confided in her teacher that her stepfather had been sexually abusing her since she was eight.

The school made a police report and the MSF's Child Protective Service stepped in. However, the mother doubted her daughter's account and sided with her husband, the MSF spokesman said.

For her safety, the teenager was placed in a children's home and later, under her aunt's care. She has been receiving help to cope with the trauma but she continues to display worrying behaviour, including self-harm.

Her stepfather was not charged in court due to insufficient evidence.

As for Alice, years of counselling and therapy have helped.

Her father writes to her regularly from prison and although she has visited him, she is apprehensive about his impending release.

She said: "I don't know what recovery truly feels like, but it does get better with time. While the pain doesn't go away completely, it doesn't make me bitter."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2017, with the headline 'Victims break silence on child sexual abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe