Sat, Jul 12, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Sexual abuse danger approaches

WARNING SIGNS Cases of sexual abuse are already significantly higher than last year and the interior ministry is warning media to report sensibly and with sensitivity

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of the Interior yesterday urged media to be more sensitive to victims of sexual abuse as it released the number of sexual abuse cases from last year, which was the highest over the past five years.

Pointing out that the danger period for sexual abuse -- summer vacation -- has arrived, the ministry asked media to improve their tone and skill when they cover sexual abuse cases.

According to the National Police Administration, 3,114 people were sexually abused last year, 97 percent of whom were females.

According to the police, 65 percent of last year's sexual abuse victims were below the age of 17.

Lin Tsyr-ling (林慈玲), executive secretary of the ministry's Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Prevention Committee, said more than 70 percent of sexual abuse cases were committed by the victims' acquaintances.

This year, 1,407 sexual abuse cases were reported from January to May.

"The number is 25.85 percent higher than the cases reported during the same period last year," Lin said.

"From January to May, about 270 people were sexually abused every month [averaging] 9 people per day," Lin said.

Society's open attitude toward sex, mounting social pressure and a lack of outlets for people to vent anger all contribute to the growing number of sexual abuse, Lin said.

Media's pursuit of sexual abuse cases and exposure of victim's identities often deepen the victims' affliction, said Lin.

For example, some coverage implied that the victims put themselves at risk by dressing immodestly, Lin said.

"But even students in uniform could be sexually abused," said Lin.

Lin urged media to analyze the social and cultural factors leading to instances of sexual abuse so as to educate the public through more humanitarian coverage.

Although the Sexual Abuse Prevention Act (性侵害防治法) bars media from revealing the names of victims, the images of the victims' relatives and residences could equally expose their identities, a sexual abuse counselor said.

Teng Shiao-ping (鄧曉平), a counselor at the Garden of Hope, an institution helping victims of sexual abuse, said media's exposure of the victims' identities could inflict lifelong suffering on them.

Teng shared the story of one of the cases she has been counseling. The case was a girl in the second year of junior high school. She was sexually abused by an acquaintance of her family.

Teng said media sniffed out the girl's case when a fight erupted between her parents and the acquaintance. Media reported the fight occurred because the girl had been raped.

"From the beginning to the end, the coverage did not mention the girl's name. Her face did not appear on TV, either. But whoever knew her parents, knew she was raped. Her classmates also learned that she had been raped," said Teng.

Teng said the question the girl most often asked her during counseling sessions was, "Teacher, how can I lead a normal life again?"

The girl was afraid to return to school because her classmates knew she had been sexually abused. Teng said the girl told her if she got a job, her colleagues could still recognize her.

According to Teng, the girl's parents began shunning friends and relatives since media's coverage of their daughter's sexual abuse.

"Media coverage opened a wound for the whole family," Teng said.

Teng said she understood the media has to dramatize stories in order to increase viewership or sell papers. "But the media's coverage of sexual abuse cases could easily destroy the victims' trust in people around them," Teng said.

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