Monday, January 7, 2013

When everyone says "that's all we could do"

Recently a single mother came to our office (both DAP Damansara office and Kampung Chempaka service center) to ask for our assistance for her 9 year-old girl. 

Her daughter experienced sexual abuse resulting in acute bleeding of her private part. For your information, the family is not so well to do, the little girl need to either stay in her grandmother house together with her uncle and cousin or in her mother's house together with two other families that co-rent the house. Until now, the perpetrator is not identified (so the mother wasn't sure where is safe for the daughter). 

I remember vividly my first meeting with the little girl. She didn't really talk and preferred to use body languages or just make sounds. According to her mother, she is a constant victim of school bully. This very same girl is now sexually abused. As I was talking to the mother, I kept asking myself, "how will this girl turn out to be when she grows up if she receives no help from the society?" Neglected at times (both the mother and grandmother need to work), constantly bullied in the school and now worse, sexually abused. 

During the meeting, the mother, who is not much educated, couldn't explain to me what her daughter had really went through. So I decided to bring her to the hospital so we could ask the doctor in charge about her daughter situation.

So we met up another day, after a long wait in the University Hospital, we finally get to see the doctor. Basically, the girl was admitted to the hospital due to acute bleeding of the private part. The doctor found that the injury was caused by a sharp object (pencil or the likes) penetrated very deep inside her private part. The girl stayed at the hospital for another 9 days before she could be discharged (imagine how serious the injury was). The hospital has reported the case to the police and Jabatan Kebajikan child abuse team at the hospital. 

When I asked about the police, the doctor said, "the police have done all they could do... although we found that the injury was caused by sharp object but there's no evidence of what object and who committed the offence, so the case is most likely closed now." Question is, have the police even bother to investigate the case? It is particularly important to find the perpetrator for this case as the mother does not know where's safe for the daughter. When I asked about the abuse team, he said again "they have done all they could..... scheduling a psychiatrist appointment for the the little girl......" Question is, is that all???? Then I continued to ask this and that, the answer I got from him was always " we (or somebody else) have done all we/they could...." 

Then........ I raised my voice and said firmly to him, "NO, THIS IS NOT ALL WE COULD DO!!" (people who know me know that I don't raise my voice easily)

We as a society just cannot, and never should, say "that's all we could do" to this little victim. There are leakages in the institutional establishment that we should seriously look into. 

I left the hospital disappointed, knowing that the current establishment will not be able to help the girl nor many other girls of similar fate all across Malaysia. Does our society provide them the fundamental right in the pursuit of happiness? A resounding NO. 

Fortunately, we found a better organisation to handle the case than us - Generasi Gemilang (we are after all a political party). They will take care of the legal procedures in seeking justice for the girl, make sure she's safe from the perpetrator as well as give her well-planned professional counselling from sexual abuse expertise. I hope that the girl through this will be able to grow up just like any other girl, to be a woman with good characters and self-esteem. 

The question now for us is this, even we've helped the girl in this particular case, how many more that are left helpless? Especially those who are from kampong where no established and well-funded NGO such as Generasi Gemilang nearby. 

Only through institutional change can we first minimise the case, and when it does happen, lower the consequences to the victims' lives. The leakages in laws and their enforcement should be identified; the police investigation and Jabatan Kebajikan standard operating procedures in handling sexual abuse case should be refined; and the NGOs should be empowered to act. 

I believe a commission should be formed to propose a complete manoeuvre to the current system so that sexual abuse victims will be helped within the establishment. In another words, as long as they are sent to the hospital and identified as sexual abuse case, they'll be well taken care of (or force to be so) in term of justice, protection and long-term recuperation. 

Below is the statistics on the violence against women in Malaysia and clearly shows that it has become much more rampant in recent years. There are about 10 women get raped every day in Malaysia, excluding the unreported and rape with an object (as this little girl) cases. 

Note: In the Penal Code, rape with an object is considered an "unnatural offence" not rape (another legal reform need to be done).

What's funny is, as I am writing this, Malaysiakini headline was "Rosmah wants Roti 1Malaysia for Permata", croissant for the kids. Frankly, I don't really care about her, but the woman that stand beside her in the picture is Datuk Heng Seai Kie, the former Deputy Minister of Women Ministry. 

I know it's not right to link, but I couldn't help but to wonder: shouldn't Datuk Heng be more concerned about violence against women, about protection of the children over sexual abuse, about the institution for sexual abuse victim recuperation than standing beside our Prime Minister's wife and support her childish remarks on introducing western breads to the kids? I also took sometime to check through Heng's speeches and press statements and found that since her ascension to the ministerial post, she has not been acting like a minister for the women, but just a woman minister. She seems to be more interested in being high-profile, involving herself in controversial issues and arguments, than to use her power and influence to change the system for the well-being of women, family and community. 

I hope that after the 13th General Election, the next minister and deputy minister for the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development will take women issues to heart. I hope that they are at least female (o, please) and of course from the Pakatan Rakyat.