PETALING JAYA: An NGO working with underprivileged and at-risk youth in the country has warned of the long-term side effects that child sex abuse victims could face if they are left untreated.
Agape Vision founder Gillian Valerie Chong said it was crucial that victims received continued therapy.
“The children need therapeutic intervention as soon as possible and throughout their lives, even into adulthood, when they feel they need it,” she told FMT.
She added that the failure to provide such therapy could expose the victim to a host of problems with long-term effects.
“One of the negative long-term effects is repeated incidents of re-victimisation.
“Other effects include difficulties in studies and relationships, struggles with addictions, inappropriate anger, depression, health issues, delinquent or criminal behaviour, risky sexual behaviour, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide.”
She also said there was a possibility that some victims might even end up becoming abusers themselves.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes sexual re-victimisation as when a survivor of sexual abuse, such as childhood sexual abuse, is sexually victimised again.
CDC says that childhood sexual abuse survivors are more likely than non-victims to experience adult sexual victimisation.
Chong said in an attempt to address the matter, Agape Vision was now working on setting up a residential treatment centre.
“It will provide counselling services to youth who are suffering the traumatic effects of childhood abuse.
“This will be carried out in a therapeutic social environment, that is a residential setting to support their healing.”
Chong, who has worked with several child sex abuse victims, said it was difficult to pinpoint the worst case she had ever handled.
“If I need to choose, the ‘worst case’ survivors I have worked with, it would be those who were survivors of incest.
“They were repeatedly raped as young children during prepubescence, either by one or multiple abusers. They were not just sexually abused, but also physically, verbally, mentally and emotionally abused.
“These children were also not believed or supported when they reported the abuse to someone they trusted.”
She added however that the devastating effects of child sexual abuse differed from survivor to survivor, and that those whose abuse appeared the most devastating on paper were not necessarily the ones who were the most severely affected as adults.
Although Chong works mainly with adolescents and young adults who have suffered the traumatic effects of childhood abuse, she said the earliest incidents reported are often those experienced at around four to six years of age.
She had been asked for her insight on the child sex trade in Malaysia, which entered the spotlight following a report that four teenage immigrants who came to Sabah with their families in search of work had been forced into the sex trade.
The four – three girls and a boy, aged between 15 and 18 – were rescued after being detained in a raid on an entertainment outlet near Kota Kinabalu on Feb 7.
Police said the victims, who worked as guest relations officers, were forced to provide sexual services to clients.
According to human rights organisation Tenaganita, there is a growing demand for sex with children in the country, and the existence of migrant children, vulnerable to human traffickers, has only complicated the fight against the scourge.