PETALING JAYA: Child victims of sexual abuse often find it difficult to get justice because the legal process is too burdensome, says an organisation combating sexual abuse against children.
Madeleine Yong, founder of Protect and Save the Children, said the law required too much evidence to be presented before a suspect could be prosecuted.
“You need forensic evidence, which is already hard to get, and then you need corroborative evidence too,” she said. “Those are the two things the authorities look for, and it’s often impossible to get both.
“We’ve had so many cases with forensic evidence, and yet they didn’t manage to go through.”
Yong was speaking after a screening of a documentary on paedophilia at PJ Live Arts in Jaya One.
The 46-minute documentary focuses on the investigations by Australian and British police that led to the arrest of serial rapist Richard Huckle last year. Huckle was given 22 life sentences in the UK for sexually abusing Malaysian children while on a teaching stint in the country.
Yong said there were many cases of paedophilia that went unreported in the country.
“When we first started 20 years ago, we used to get many cold cases. Many people, including preschoolers, would come up to us and say they were sexually abused decades ago.
“We will assess the child and if the child is not a strong witness, we usually opt to offer therapy and counselling. That’s simply because the criminal justice system is absolutely tedious.”
A representative of the Association of Women Lawyers called for an adequate support system for victims.
She pointed out that the National Legal Aid Foundation provided support only for perpetrators of crime, not for victims.
“That’s important because if you want to increase conviction, then victim support services must be in place,” she said. “In Malaysia, we don’t have that. In countries like Australia, Canada and the UK, they have support services for victims.”
After the event, Yong told FMT there were much more child abuse cases than cited in recent reports. She alleged that the actual figures were protected under the Official Secrets Act.
A Reuters report last year said there were 12,987 reported cases of child sexual abuse between January 2012 and July 2016. Charges were filed for 2,189 cases, resulting in 140 convictions.
According to Reuters, the government provides data on child abuse only at the request of a member of parliament.
The documentary screened was part of Channel News Asia’s investigative series, Undercover Asia. Its official release date has yet to be announced.