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LAST_UPDATEFri, 27 Oct 2017 9am

How Can We Protect Our Young Girls From Becoming Victims Of Incest?

“How to protect our young girls when the person, who are supposed to protect them become perpetrators themselves?”

Sarawak, State Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah took to Facebook recently in exasperation over the recurring cases of incest, which in Sarawak state has also registered a worrying increase.

“Today on my way to airport, I felt sick and downhearted. Kept thinking how can we protect our young girls from becoming victims of incest, raped by their own family members,” she wrote in a Facebook post on September 7.
In fact, take a look at the reported on the transgressions (almost) a weekly basis:

  1. August 4: Teen Pleads Not Guilty To Committing Incest With Three Sisters;
  2. August 10: 16-Year-Old Boy Allegedly Raped His Now Seven Months Pregnant Sister;
  3. August 10: Dad Sodomises Daughter 600 Times: 499 Charges Read Out Today;
  4. August 15: Mechanic Gets 26 Years, Caning For Incest With Stepdaughter, 14;
  5. August 25: Father, 3 Sons Sentenced To 335 Years In Jail For Incest;
  6. September 2: Police Probe Almost Complete On Man Who Allegedly Raped Daughter;
  7. September 15: Security Guard, Son Charged With Incest;
  8. September 19: Father Sentenced To 480 Years In Prison For Raping 13-Year-Old Daughter

Referencing the recent ‘Monster Dad’ case whereby the man was charged with 623 counts of sexually assaulting his daughter for a period of three years, Malaysian Digest spoke with various members of the public to see if they can find a viable solution as sought by the Sarawak minister.

The Public Is Disgusted With The Notorious ‘Monster Dad’

With fathers often being regarded as heroes to their daughters, it goes without saying that Malaysians are immensely disturbed and sickened upon knowing that a father had the heart to sexually assault and sodomised his 15-year-old almost every day at fixed intervals.

“I fail to comprehend why such a father exists – he was supposed to protect her, but instead he violated her. His daughter will have to live with the trauma for the rest of her life,” Aimi lamented.

“His punishment is just because the death penalty will be a lenient punishment for the perpetrator, whereas the prison sentence will force the father to ponder upon his crimes and sins behind bars.”

Cik Rasah on the hand opined that his punishment should be heavier such as a longer prison sentence.

“He is not a father – he is an animal. This sicko should be sent for counselling sessions so that we can get into the minds of these sick people and DO something before such cases reoccur.

“In fact, a friend of mine organised a Child Sexual Abuse and Grooming symposium on September 17 to educate and encourage community involvement as a means of prevention,” and emphasised that awareness is tremendously important to engage with the public.

Psychology graduate Syazleen, questioned if the man committed his inhumane misdeed simply because he is mentally disturbed or if he just genuinely sick.

“I’d really love it if he’d undergo a psycho-analysis exam, so that we can understand incest-related cases better and prevent it.

“It’s so difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that a father sadomised his daughter (almost) on a daily basis – he should be whipped every day instead of just once; let him endure the pain (of being whipped) for as long as his prison sentence stands.”

Tipi on the other hand, underlined that she would rather see the perpetrator hanged as he does not deserve to live after committing such an unforgivable and heartless crime.

“I think Malaysians are generally disgusted. But I know some have become immune to the issue and I think this is a problem. The fact that people have become immune to it either indicates they do not have a soul or countless incest cases have occurred in Malaysia,” she opined.

Getting Into The Mind Of The Predator

On that note, Malaysian Digest got in touch with Criminologist-cum-Psychologist Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat, who reminded us of the five issues in regards to cases of incest:

“Having said that, between 1997 and June 2017, on average 292 cases of incest are reported each year. Within that two-decade time frame, the year 2010 had the highest number of reported cases (413 cases),” she revealed and added that figure of 413 may be a reflection of actual rise in numbers or rise in reports made.

“Since the year 2000, Malay victims of incest form the largest percentage (at least 70%) of reported case every year. Consistently, children aged between 13 and 15 are more vulnerable to become victims of incest, followed by children aged between 16 and 18, and even children aged 6 and below have also been reported as victims of incest. A large percentage of the offenders are fathers to victims.”

Asking Dr Geshina as to why these heinous crimes occur, she explained that sexual crimes largely occur behind closed doors over a long period of time and is likely that many cases are not reported due to the following reasons:

“From the predator’s perspective, several elements support and sustain incest,” she conveyed and added that these elements can be traced to psychosocial and criminogenic factors.

“The predator makes use of cognitive distortion, obsession, deviant fantasies, sense of entitlement, right, or power; pro-criminal attitudes and behaviours; as well as practicing lifestyles that support sexual deviancy.

“Predators may or may not have a circle of friends with similar interest and have access to child pornography materials.”

 

Dr Geshina additionally highlighted that sometimes other family members are aware of what is going on and either take part, deny or ignore the abuse.

“Admittedly, more and more female family members take it upon themselves to report and stop the abuse,” she relayed.

“Despite whatever justification the offender claims, children are made into sexual objects for the sexual gratification of incest predators, and nothing more.”

Clinical Psychologist Shares Trauma Endured By Victims

Speaking with Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Lynne Yong, she explained that incest is not related to any mental or personality disorder as incest is just an act of committing sex with a family member or close relative.

“These perpetrators are aware of what they are doing as they plan it out – they pick the opportune moment and the opportune victim,” she revealed the shocking reality.

Underlining incestuous relations will have a psychological impact on the victims, the Penang-based doctor listed some of the side effects endured by the victims:

“They will also endure trauma in the form of recurrent intrusive and distressing memories as it can come out in dreams or have flashbacks,” she revealed.

“Even the slightest reminder of the unfortunate event can set off intense distress, similar of that to panic attacks, which resulted in the victims avoiding any signs of reminder or trigger of the event.”

Dr Lynne also added that victims may also suffer from dissociative amnesia, whereby the mind shuts down when something immensely traumatising occurs and therefore resulting in the victims not remember every bit of the event.

Describing it as, “it’s happening to your body, but your mind is not there,” she lamented that the court or prosecutors may not be aware of the condition and hence, may opine that the victims are lying.

The consultant clinical psychologist advised that listening and ensuring that a child feels protected is the first step to help these children out of their own personal hell.

“I found that dismissing a child’s woes – out of fear that it may cause more harm or are sceptical of their claims – causes tremendous damage,” the doctor unearthed.

“So when a child opens up to you, listen to them, ask them about it and most importantly, make them feel protected so that they know there is still someone out there whom they can trust.”

Dr Lynne noted that victims who have family members who protected (and helped them) tend to bounce back faster as they acknowledge that it is not their fault, aside from knowing that they are well-protected.

Once the victims feel safe to open up about abuse, counselling sessions will help survivors heal from their traumatic experience as trauma therapy helps victims come to terms with the event in a more rational way.

“When trauma happens, certain part of your brain does not process it, so you’ll just feel it but you don’t really understand or process it,” she conveyed.

“So what trauma therapy does is that it links all of these together and help you understand that you are not at fault and the blame should be put where it belongs.”

While there is hope is not lost for survivors of sexual assault from incestuous relations, Dr Lynne noted that there is a possibility for these perpetrators to be rehabilitated in the event they wish to do so.

“As weird as it sounds, a lot of times these perpetrators conduct their transgression is because they don’t know that it’s wrong as they deemed it as their right,” and emphasised the need for education – focusing on why their action is wrong – for these perpetrators and appropriate punishment.

How Incest Crimes Are Dealt With In The Malaysian Legal System

To understand as to how the Malaysian police tackle incest-related cases, former Inspector-General Police of Malaysia (IGP) Tan Sri Musa Hassan shared with Malaysian Digest that Bukit Aman has a designated unit to tackle rape cases involving children.

“During my tenure serving as IGP, the Sexual Offences Unit was established as means to tackle cases involving minors being abused by adults,” the former IGP highlighted and assured that the officers are well-trained to tackle such crimes.

“The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) stated that once a report has been lodged by a minor or a relative, regardless incest or raped, the officers will have to interview them and then take preventive measures such as separating them from the perpetrator,” and added that the victims will be taken care of by the unit.

Upon being interviewed, Musa relayed that the victims will then be taken to the hospital to undergo a medical evaluation and once there is confirmation of abuse, the authorities will take relevant steps to arrest the culprit.

"As a matter of fact, even hospitals have alerted in cases where it involves sexual offences against children to contact this unit once theyy have receive such cases," Musa informed.

In matters regarding to Malaysian law, Malaysian Digest spoke with an advocate and solicitor named Gee, who enlightened that incestuous crimes fall under Penal Code 376A.

“Incestuous crimes usually happens when the perpetrator takes advantage of the person under his or her charge usually children, and so the other relevant acts that can be also be used are, Malaysia Child Act 2001; or the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017,” she highlighted.

“For Muslims, the Syariah court in each state will be applicable for any incestuous relationship.”

Relaying to Gee that majority of Malaysians are calling for a more severe punishment for the ‘monster dad’, the legal practitioner stated that the judge administer the terms as provided in the relevant acts and therefore, a more severe punishment will call for amendments in the penal code in regards to the punishments.

“It’s quite unreasonable to expect the law to ensure that the perpetrators will not carry out their plans as most of these people know what they’re doing is wrong but they don’t care,” she opined.

“The sad reality is that some of them are more remorseful for being caught but not care about the damage that they have caused.

“In fact there are cases under the Syariah court in Johor, where a brother and a sister were caught in an incestuous relationship, which led them to running away, illegally tying the knot and still bear children.”

Gee reminded that any dismemberment or calls for death penalty for incestuous relationship will have to be proportionate, justifiable and argued as even the death penalty, that befalls on murderers and killers in Malaysia, is considered barbaric by the European countries, whilst noting that such type of laws require careful consideration.

Malaysians Share Their Suggestions

In a table shared by Gee as stated by the President of the Retired Senior Police Officers Association (RESPA Tan Sri Mohd Ismail Che Rus, it depicts that the statistics of reported incest cases under the Syariah court between 2009 and 2013 fluctuates:

“Data for non-Muslims is much higher, but sadly there are many more unreported cases,” Gee lamented.
It is imperative to acknowledge that regardless what the statistics indicate, one incest case is already considered to be too much.

On that note, Malaysian Digest has compiled a list of suggestions put forth by our stakeholders in hopes that even if it stops one case, that is better than doing nothing:

- Malaysian Digest