More must be done to help victims of child sexual abuse

I laud the report on child sexual abuse cases in Singapore (When home is where the sex abuse is, for kids; Aug 26).

Media attention is now focused on the exceptional failings of the Roman Catholic Church as its widespread and decades-long sexual abuse scandal unfolds.

Few media outlets have highlighted the far larger public health issue, where a majority of sexual abuse cases occur in the home, often by a family member.

Victims of childhood sexual trauma are at a significantly increased risk of developing psychiatric illnesses, eating disorders and addictions in adulthood. Suicide is not uncommon.

Life as a survivor brings myriad challenges in primary relationships, career success and self-esteem.

Many are seen as the troublemakers or pariahs in their families, and are often treated as scapegoats.

Singapore has an opportunity to lead the way in effectively addressing and preventing child sexual abuse, thereby decreasing future rates of mental illness and addiction.

Currently, few mental health professionals are adequately trained in identifying and treating complex trauma.

Providing cutting-edge training and adequate funding to educate a new breed of therapist, some of whom may personally understand what it's like to be a survivor, will be key.

Perpetrators silence children through shame, fear and "special treatment". Thus, educating children about inappropriate touch while providing them with the psychological tools to speak up is paramount.

This can be administered through schools and public health campaigns.

Harsh sentences for offenders must be meted out.

By highlighting this issue, you have given those who live with the scars of abuse a voice and a collective future hope.

Aimee Barnes Pestano (Mrs)

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2018, with the headline More must be done to help victims of child sexual abuse. Subscribe