Sex­ual child abuse case raises alarm bells

The Jakarta Post - - HEADLINES - Cal­lis­ta­sia Ang­gun Wi­jaya

Res­i­dents seek to set­tle child sex abuse case in East Jakarta with state­ment Al­leged of­fender sus­pected to have molested two other chil­dren

A child mo­lesta­tion case in Pulo Gadung, East Jakarta, in which the 45-year-old al­leged per­pe­tra­tor re­port­edly got away with sign­ing a state­ment say­ing he would not re­peat such an act, has raised con­cern about so­ci­ety be­ing overly le­nient with re­gard to sex­ual crimes.

The case be­gan on Oct. 6 with the dis­ap­pear­ance of a nine-yearold girl. Mem­bers of the girl’s fam­ily, along with other res­i­dents, even­tu­ally found the child at the home of the al­leged per­pe­tra­tor, iden­ti­fied as T, whom they had long sus­pected of wrong­do­ing, as he re­port­edly of­ten in­vited chil­dren to his rented house.

T re­port­edly ad­mit­ted to hav­ing molested the child and signed the state­ment, wit­nessed by a neigh­bor­hood unit (RT) head and some res­i­dents.

Desi Mar­liana, 44, a neigh­bor of the child’s fam­ily, said she dis­ap­proved of such a set­tle­ment.

“I re­ject the state­ment, as it is not based on the law […] I told the res­i­dents that we can­not do that, be­cause we too have chil­dren,” Desi said on Fri­day.

The house­wife said the res­i­dents had been re­luc­tant to re­port the case to the po­lice, be­cause they did not want to be in con­flict with their neigh­bors, while some sought to avoid get­ting in­volved in le­gal pro­ceed­ings.

A sim­i­lar in­ci­dent, also im­pli­cat­ing T, re­port­edly hap­pened seven years ago. That case had been set­tled through a dis­cus­sion with a neigh­bor­hood unit head, Desi claimed.

T is be­lieved to have fled from his house af­ter the so-called set­tle­ment of the lat­est case.

On Tues­day, po­lice ar­rested T in Ma­jalengka, West Java, and named him a sus­pect of sex­ual child abuse.

While the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the case is on­go­ing, the In­done­sian Child Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sion (KPAI) is as­sist­ing the vic­tim and has al­leged that other chil­dren have also be­come vic­tims of T.

KPAI com­mis­sioner Jasra Pu­tra said at least two more chil­dren had been molested by T “a cou­ple of years ago.”

“As the fam­i­lies of vic­tims see sex­ual abuse as a dis­grace, they refuse to re­port it to the po­lice. We are now en­cour­ag­ing them to re­port such cases,” Jasra said.

The res­i­dents’ at­tempt to set­tle the case out of court re­flected a low de­gree of aware­ness on their part re­gard­ing child pro­tec­tion, as well as a poor ed­u­ca­tional back­ground, he said.

Jasra added that the KPAI and the So­cial Af­fairs Min­istry had told the res­i­dents that child mo­lesta­tion was a crime pun­ish­able with up to 15 years in prison, not some­thing that could be set­tled by a mere state­ment.

“Be­fore hear­ing our ex­pla­na­tion, the res­i­dents deemed the crime an or­di­nary thing,” he said.

The mo­lesta­tion of three chil­dren, aged 4, 6, and 10, was re­vealed in Duren Sawit, East Jakarta, last week, a lo­cal news por­tal re­ported on Thurs­day.

The fa­ther of one of the vic­tims re­port­edly de­cided to set­tle the case with an agree­ment with the al­leged per­pe­tra­tor, be­cause he was wor­ried he could not af­ford the med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion that forms the ba­sis for re­port­ing such a case to the po­lice.

Af­ter some peo­ple en­cour­aged him to con­sult with the KPAI, the fa­ther fi­nally mus­tered the courage to file a po­lice re­port.

Em­pow­er­ment, Child Pro­tec­tion and Pop­u­la­tion Con­trol (PPAPP) Agency head Dien Em­mawati said the agency found that vic­tims’ fam­i­lies some­times let mo­lesta­tion go un­re­ported, as they feared re­port­ing such cases could jeop­ar­dize their chil­dren’s fu­ture.

The stigma was still strong among the least ad­van­taged peo­ple, so a le­gal process was not their pre­ferred op­tion, she said.

“There was also a fam­ily that dropped the po­lice re­port and de­cided to make peace with the mo­lester, de­spite our as­sis­tance,” she said.

Even though the gov­ern­ment has al­lowed for harsh pu­n­ish­ment of child of­fend­ers with a reg­u­la­tion in-lieu of law (Perppu) that stip­u­lates chem­i­cal cas­tra­tion as a pu­n­ish­ment, cases of sex­ual abuse against chil­dren keep com­ing up.

Last year, the PPAPP recorded 1,618 cases of abuse against chil­dren or women, with 60 per­cent of those be­ing child abuse, in­clud­ing 592 sex­ual of­fenses. North and East Jakarta are among the re­gions with the high­est preva­lence of re­ported cases, the data show.

To ad­dress the is­sue, the Jakarta ad­min­is­tra­tion has opened abuse re­port­ing cen­ters at 12 child-friendly in­te­grated pub­lic spa­ces.

Eight of the cen­ters are lo­cated in low-cost apart­ment build­ings, such as in Marunda and Muara Baru in North Jakarta, and Pulo Ge­bang in East Jakarta.

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