Look into factors leading to abuse of stepchildren

Mr Nicholas Tan's description of his painful experience of being separated from his father after his parents divorced (Review how custody of kids is granted in divorce cases; March 4), brought to mind increasing instances of reports of children being sexually abused by a step-parent or family friend.

There were three reports last month alone (Cabby jailed 11 months for molesting stepdaughter, Feb 28; Jail, cane for raping lover's daughter, Feb 27; and Man gets 28 years' jail, 24 strokes for raping stepdaughter, Feb 14).

In each of these cases, the child apparently had minimal contact with her biological father, due to her parents' separation.

In seeking a father figure, the child unfortunately put her trust in a step-parent or family friend, who ended up exploiting her sexually.

The fact that these abuses took place over several years - some to the extent that the child had been "conditioned'' to the abuse to, for example, automatically undress whenever the abuser wanted sex - reflects the deep vulnerabilities that children of divorce face and the lack of real options for these abused children to turn to in the event of trouble.

I urge the Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Family Courts to urgently review the contributory factors for the occurrence of such serious abuse cases, and to take immediate steps to correct the situation.

I also strongly support Mr Tan's call for the Family Courts to grant shared care and control of children to parents who have divorced.

In each of these cases, the child apparently had minimal contact with her biological father, due to her parents' separation. In seeking a father figure, the child unfortunately put her trust in a step-parent or family friend, who ended up exploiting her sexually.

The love and guidance of both parents are important for children within an intact family, and even more so when the parents have separated.

Sufficient time spent with each parent will allow children to establish meaningful relationships with both parents, and give them a real option to turn to in times of need.

It will also better protect them from such senseless atrocities.

Geraldine Tan Chee Lian (Mrs)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2018, with the headline 'Look into factors leading to abuse of stepchildren'. Print Edition | Subscribe