Another case of child sexual abuse and I want to talk about it, because the victim is just 17 years old. Making comparisons will not help if the victim is older or not. Probably a child of 10 or 15 has more probabilities to fight back, but it stills shocking the victim is so young. DAP News reported yesterday that a construction worker, Niegn Sol, 21, was arrested by the police for abusing a 17 months old girl, the daughter of two constructor workers also. They let their girl under the care of an aunt. As the aunt got absent to take water from a nearby well, the man attacked the child. A boy, who saw the crime ran to call some adults who chased Sol, who was arrested by the police hours after the incident. The man did not accept the charges against him.
There is a need of a great campaign on prevention to reach the most vulnerable communities such as farmers, workers, women, men, students… The fact is that children’s protection is a responsibility of all of us and we cannot remain blind to this reality.
Let us see some numbers on this situation:
Cambodian human rights defender, Licadho, says in its website (underlining main points):
‘Children are one of Cambodia’s most vulnerable groups, facing numerous threats to their safety and livelihood. The psychological impact of Cambodia’s murderous Khmer Rouge regime and years of civil war are often passed down from parent to child. Available healthcare is poor and infant mortality rates are high. Literacy levels remain low across all sections of society and access to education – especially beyond primary school – is limited for many Cambodian children. In addition, children are the subject of violence and exploitation such as sexual abuse, trafficking and dangerous forms of child labor. LICADHO recorded over 140 cases of child rape in 2004. The number of cases reported to LICADHO increases every year, either due to an increasing number of incidents or possibly to greater willingness on the part of children and their families to report abuses. Sadly, the age of victims appears to be falling, with girls as young as 4 and 5 being raped. In one case in 2004, a child of just 14 months was raped. Sadly, most of these cases don’t result in convictions due to out-of-court cash settlements and the climate of impunity in Cambodia.’
The main ideas over this 2004 report from Licadho are that children continue being a very vulnerable group in Cambodia, it is connected to the legacy of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime, literacy still low, the age of child victims seems to be falling year after year and it is encourage by a climate of impunity.
In this report of Child Wise Cambodia, we find these numbers related to children (I underlined key ideas):
- The number of street children (estimated at 10,000 to 20,000) is increasing at a rate of 20 per cent per year. Factors as to why children are on the streets include poverty, domestic violence, rapid population growth, and rural-urban migration. Weaknesses in the education system encourage the supply of child labor and incidence of street children. Additionally, in 2009 there were 27 forced evictions of slums (involving 23,000 people) in Cambodia, inevitably contributing to the population of street families, and children without adequate shelter.
- According to the National AIDS Authority (NAA), there are 80,000 orphans and vulnerable children living in Cambodia as a result of the AIDS epidemic.
- UNESCO estimates that there are 700,000 economically active children between the ages of 5 and 17 in the country. Nearly three quarters of these children have dropped out of school.
These numbers of Child Wise are worrisome, of course. We can speculate that cases of child abuse in anyway (sexual abuse, child exploitation, child human trafficking, etc.,) could be higher than what we can estimate just because one reason: 20 thousand street children are unlikely to report to the authorities if they become victims and, it is also very important to underline, many child victims do not know they are victims.
Child Wise has also a very important page studying the myths and facts of child abuse in Cambodia. You can see it here. Let’s see a resume of these myths, knowing that myths are general assumptions people have about a situation and their presence normally avoid to take real actions:
- Child abusers are not only rich and powerful people. They can be any person from any social level and they can pose as normal to society.
- They are not gangsters or drug addicts necessary. Many child abusers do not use drugs or do not present a violent profile in community.
- Not all child abusers are strangers. A child abuser can just be your close friend, relative or neighbor. In fact, an element that put the victim in their hands is that the child knows the abuser and do not suspect that person will pose any danger.
- Abused children are not bad children. Some persons suggests that the child is responsible to cause the abuse. One problem caused by this crime is that the victim feels a very deep sense of guilt. Moreover, if a child agrees to have a sexual intercourse, it does not justify the action, because the child is a person in formation and their decisions are not mature.
- Child abusers are not only males. Women can be also child abusers. At the same level, child victims are not only girls. Boys are also victims of child abuse and it happens more than what you imagine. Male victims of child abuse can be disregarded by some parts just because some people think a boy is a man and he can defend himself and it is not true. Now well, a male dominant assumption will consider that an adult woman abusing a boy is okay, because she is teaching him to be a man. Sexual education does not need laboratories… It is a child abuse anyway.
- Usually, a sexual child offender commits the crime again. This person must be attended by professionals and this person must be put far from the contact of children or in a way children would not become victims of their problem. This should be a logical rule.
- Child prostitution is not normal and poverty is not a justification to put your child on sale, even if the child accepts it just to support your economy. We need a legislation to remove children from parents and tutors with such ideas that put the children under risk of abuse and exploitation. Children do not belong to their parents, but parents have the responsibility to care for their children.
- It is not true that all foreigners are child abusers. The fact is that in Cambodia most child abusers are Cambodians and that all foreign child abusers have already a record of child abuse in their own country, something that could be easily traced if the international and national authorities work to detect in order to prevent.