Forum: Do more to empower kids to protect themselves against sexual abuse

I was disturbed to read the article, "Man who sexually abused 11 boys gets 42 years' jail, 24 strokes" (Aug 23).

The man was caught as a result of a tip-off from the Australian authorities.

This implies that, despite the cases of abuse happening over a seven-year period, none of the boys, or their families, initially identified the abuse or flagged this predator's behaviour to the authorities.

This seems to be a failure of families, schools and institutions to safeguard our children, and should cause us as a community to reflect on what families discuss and teach at home, how and whether parents are equipped with the skills to have these conversations, and what more can be discussed and taught in schools.

Too often, children are expected to submit to adult authority - to give auntie a kiss, to sit on uncle's lap, or to allow adults to bathe them or change their clothes, without their asking.

Protecting children requires not just preventing paedophiles from having contact with children, but also empowering children more.

We need to do more to equip our children with a clear understanding of their bodies and a clear sense of agency over their bodies, and create a culture of respect for children that allows them to stand up to adults who request or exhibit inappropriate behaviours.

Children should be given the comfort of knowing they will be taken seriously if they raise concerns about inappropriate behaviour.

Tay Su Lian

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