Sun, Jun 24, 2018 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Victims must feel safe to take action

A New Taipei City elementary school came under fire on Wednesday after Taipei City Councilor Angela Ying (應曉薇) accused the school of refusing to detail its response to allegations that one of its teachers sexually assaulted eight children.

Although the law stipulates that teachers must inform school authorities and the local social welfare department or a gender equity education committee when a student is sexually assaulted, the school only informed one child’s parents that the teacher had left the school, Ying said.

The case is the second involving a sexually abused child to appear in the news over the past few months, after a ruling was made on April 1 in a case in which a man lured two girls into his car in front of an elementary school and assaulted them four years ago. That case only went to court after it came to the attention of a teacher who took action, as the parents initially hoped to keep the assault quiet because they “did not want to make a big deal out of it.”

One of the mothers said she “wanted to say something, but did not want too many people to find out” and that it was “only touching and not an issue.”

In other cases, the silence of victims and their families has proven fatal, such as that of a New Taipei City woman, surnamed Huang (黃), who was allegedly murdered and dismembered by her boyfriend. Family members said they had known that the boyfriend, Chu Chun-ying (朱峻穎), was abusive, and Huang herself had told her friend that Chu “had gone crazy” and “he is sick.”

So why do victims of abuse often fail to bring the issue to the attention of the authorities who can help? A blog post on the Web site of Psychology Today (“Why don’t victims of sexual harassment come forward sooner?” Nov. 16, 2017) says that people who suffer abuse generally experience intense shame, quoting Michigan State University professor of psychology Gershen Kaufman as saying: “Shame is a natural reaction to being violated or abused.”

The victim feels invaded and defiled, while simultaneously experiencing the indignity of being at the mercy of another person, the article says, adding that victims often blame themselves, feeling somehow responsible for the abuse. The article says victims are concerned that reporting the abuse will result in repercussions, especially when the harassment or assault occurred in the workplace.

Parents might also feel hindered by a sense of shame or by a fear of repercussions. If their child experiences abuse, the child is likely to be treated differently by other children at school, and the parents are likely to worry about being treated differently in the school community.

The family no longer gets to be a “normal” family. This might especially be the case in a group-oriented Asian society.

A report by Jennifer Zimbroff in the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy (May 2007) cites a study in which college students from China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan “were significantly more tolerant of actions deemed to constitute sexual harassment than were non-Asian respondents.”

Another study cited in the report said that women in Hong Kong who experienced workplace harassment were less likely to report the assault and demonstrated coping strategies that “tended to be less assertive and more indirect than those of US counterparts.”

Although Taiwan has laws to protect against abuse, harassment and sexual misconduct, these laws cannot be effective if victims and their families do not feel safe coming forward. Schools must actively discuss the issue of abuse with their communities, and encourage both students and parents to report incidents.

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