We thank Mr Donovan Chee Kwok Hoe (Introduce sex education early to protect minors; Forum Online, March 6) for his suggestions on how to better protect children from sexual abuse.
There are established inter-agency protocols to identify child abuse. These include screening tools and reporting guides by agencies from the health, social service and education sectors.
If the alleged perpetrator is a family member or if parents are assessed to have seriously compromised the child's safety, the protocols require the Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) Child Protective Service (CPS) to be alerted.
Where a child cannot remain safe at home, MSF CPS will place the child temporarily with relatives, a foster family or a children's home. Where necessary, alternative longer-term care arrangements will be planned for the child.
Sexual abuse victims and their families are also supported with a range of community services, and may also be referred to MSF psychologists to help them recover from the trauma of abuse.
Additionally, the Ministry of Home Affairs and MSF will be piloting a multi-disciplinary interview model in the middle of this year to better support children who have been sexually abused in the family. We will do this by co-locating the forensic interviewing and medical examination at one location - the KK Women's and Children's Hospital. This will reduce the trauma faced by child victims from having to travel to different locations and needing to recount the incidents of abuse to different professionals.
Where there are concerns about a child's safety, members of the public can call our Child Protection Specialist Centres, MSF CPS, the ComCare hotline (1800-222-0000) or their nearest Family Service Centre. If a life is in danger, call the police immediately.
In schools, students learn about personal safety and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse. They are taught how to recognise sexual abuse and harassment, acquire skills to protect themselves both in real life and while online, and understand the laws that protect them in Singapore. They also learn to seek help from trusted adults, such as their parents, teachers and school counsellors, when there is risk of their personal safety being compromised.
Keeping children safe is everyone's responsibility. We all have a role to play in protecting our children.
Carmelia Nathen (Ms)
Child Protective Service
Rehabilitation and Protection Group
Ministry of Social and Family Development