Written by Firzana Redzuan

She was around the age of five, and a male neighbour wanted to play a game with her. It was a weird game. They partnered up, and to give him energy for the game, she was asked to suck his penis. She felt uncomfortable, but played along. Why? She didn’t know that it was wrong.

We’ve been living in this world that is problematic, scary, twisted and damaged for quite some time now, and it is relatively idealistic to say that we can solve every single problem in this dying world. We have to think of pollution, corrupted leaders, racist minds, feminists who hate on men, men who hate on feminists…the list goes on and on.

One of these problems is child sexual crimes. Why do we feel a certain discomfort when we talk about it? We fight an internal battle within ourselves when it comes to discussing this issue publicly because we feel ashamed. In fact, we treat it as an issue so sensitive that discussing it is out of the question. Malaysians, whether or not you admit it, are reserved creatures and we don’t talk about these things openly. Parents use ancient analogies to explain pregnancy and sexual intercourse to children to eliminate sexual connotations because the kid is ‘too young’ to comprehend such concepts. The prevailing idea of pregnancy is that “babies come from bottles” and “mummy and daddy got me because they kissed”.

This coddling mentality becomes dangerous when it leads to your child not knowing areas on his/her person where people should not touch him/her. It becomes detrimental when your child ends up not knowing how two individuals have sexual intercourse with each other. Consequently, the child will not know it is wrong when someone does something sexual to him/her or touch him/her inappropriately. We prefer to have our children be ‘protected’ in this clueless bubble thinking that life is going to teach them about sex eventually.

In comparison, what should we be doing?

Honesty is key. Children and pre-teens must know that there are people who will take advantage of their vulnerability. There are bad people out there who would transgress his/her private space and it will leave a permanent scar in his/her lives. They must know that people their age are being sexually exploited by their own uncles, aunts and even their own parents. Why is this important? It is important because they must know it is wrong, and that they shouldn’t allow anyone to do those things to them. 90% of child sexual victims know their abusers. What this means is that a child is more likely to be sexually abused by a family member or people they know.

So what now?

The Malaysian members of Parliament and people belonging to the local political scene has been  acknowledging this alarming situation that is happening in our country and the Child Sexual Offences Bill has already been tabled. This is an encouraging development that will provide the first layer of defence for the children of Malaysia and help towards the cause of putting predators where they belong: behind bars. NGOs are tirelessly collecting data and information from victims themselves, and never stop reaching out to schools and nurseries to teach them ways to handle sexual abuse if it were to happen to their own students. So as a youth, what can we do?

It’s simple. We can continue doing what we do best, and that is to use social media to our advantage.  

More often than not we underestimate the power we have within our hands. Often, social media is sadly misused for futile arguments, highlighting petty issues and throwing hate comments at high achievers who wear too much make up (hint: SPM 2016).

Asian Law Students’ Association IIUM (ALSA IIUM) is aiming to pioneer the youth involvement in fighting against this social crisis. They are trying to gather as many youths as possible at the upcoming Monsters Among Us: Child Predator Symposium (MAU 17) in September to address the issue. Together with other youths, ALSA IIUM in organising MAU 17 hopes to find ways and solutions for the prevention of child sexual crimes. Besides, the Symposium is aiming to also include discussions on other things we might face like how to handle victims who are our friends and ways to cope when you yourself are victimised. But do we wait until September for us to only then be involved?

The time to start is now.

Talk about this issue over dinner with your family. If your parents aren’t starting the conversation, you take it into your own hands. To realise the importance of protecting a child from sexual abuse is the first step towards helping the cause. Talk to your younger siblings about these monsters that exist and operate among us. They aren’t always in dirty t-shirts and ripped jeans, they just might look like the ustaz from your neighbourhood surau.  

Do justice to social media platforms. Start threads on Twitter about child sexual crimes and retweet important notes worth sharing. What should you talk about? Talk about precautionary steps children should take when talking to strangers online. Talk about the harms of children sharing their locations online. Discuss ways in which you can help a friend who might be a victim himself/herself. A single tweet can be very powerful, and you should never undermine the power of a single retweet. Your tweet may touch someone in the most unexpected way and you might be the reason for someone’s awakening.

Get out of your room. Help NGOs realise their causes. There are many NGOs out there who would need extra workforce for their projects and campaigns. Make it happen by volunteering. You get to widen your horizon when you go on the streets and experience things firsthand. You get exposure to situations that may change your whole perspective on life.

This is important for us to talk about now. No more hiding behind closed doors, no more compromising a child’s wellbeing just to preserve the family’s reputation. You can do so much as a youth. You don’t have to wait until you hold a position of authority in society to take action. Get your phone now and tweet something good. Post something useful. Share something helpful. Because ladies and gentlemen, change is just a click away.