Mon, Feb 14, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Excorcizing the ghosts of abused childhoods

The Dandelion Treatment Center for Children and Youth has been a pioneer in treatment and counseling services for victims of sexual abuse for the past 10 years. In an interview with `Taipei Times' reporter Caroline Hong, center director Wang Yueh-hao talk

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The problems faced in later life by women suxually abused as children can be overcome if those women realize that maturity has empowered them, says Wang Yueh-hao of the Dandelion Treatment Center for Children and Youth.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: In the 10 years since its founding, the Dandelion Treatment Center (浦公英治療中心) has handled counseling and treatment for over 2,200 cases of sexual abuse. Can you talk to us about the changes your organization has experienced over this time period?

Wang Yueh-hao (王玥好): In our early stages, most of our concern was focused on adult women who had been sexually assaulted by strangers. However, because the Garden of Hope [GOH, the organization of which the Dandelion Center is a subsidiary] originally began its work in this area by operating half-way homes for young women, we came across a lot of cases of domestic sexual abuse and realized that there many cases where women came across sexual abuse when they were young, which was really different from the way sexual abuse was viewed in those days.

This is most likely because back then, only older women had enough resources and support to report instances of sexual abuse; children very rarely report sexual abuse themselves, unless they have an adult helping them. Furthermore, it is easier to report an assault from a stranger. It is much more difficult to report someone you know, especially someone in your family. On an individual case by case basis, to this day, it is the hardest to handle cases that involve domestic sexual abuse. So from in this area, we became aware of the importance of increasing awareness about sexual abuse of children in the home.

Now there are related laws, such as the Sexual Abuse Prevention Act (性侵害防治法). However, most of society's resources now are focused on recent or ongoing cases of sexual abuse. For those that encountered sexual abuse as children before these laws were in place, they got no support before, and are still not receiving support. So, we are the only service that provides support and counseling for women who were sexually abused in their childhood.

About 62 percent of our cases are adult women who have sought us out; the rest are typically children's cases that have been referred to us by the Ministry of the Interior or other organizations.

TT: What usually motivates these women to come in contact with you?

Wang: The classic cases that we come in contact with are women aged between 25 and 35, when they enter the stage of their lives when they begin to have intimate relationships with other people. Commonly, these women's experiences with sexual abuse prove to be barriers in the healthy development of their relationships with people, especially those of the opposite sex. Whether it's because they are having problems in their personal lives, or because they are getting outside pressure from family members that are encouraging them to get married, they start to come across problems.

Often, also, we have cases where women who were sexually abused as children are now mothers themselves. In those cases, once a woman becomes a mother, she becomes very insecure, anxious and worried about her children. She might project the insecurities from her past onto her children. In even more extreme cases, some women may not feel safe leaving their children alone in the company of the children's father; they may be afraid that if their children leave their care, that the children might also be sexually abused. But in reality, children need some individual space and the freedom to grow. When the mothers are overprotective, their parent-child relations will be problematic.

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