Sexual child abuse case raises alarm bells
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.