It was the bawling of a little girl that caused Chang Shu-hui (張婌惠), a middle-aged mother of three, to veer off a path in a Hualien park three months ago. Chang said she was passing through the park alone on an afternoon stroll, oblivious to the chilling spectacle she was about to stumble onto.
The sounds of a toddler in distress, barely audible in the wind, led Chang to an overpass, from where the cries became more audible until an image materialized from the shadows -- the sight of a man, his pants down, poised to do unspeakable things to a five-year-old girl.
"What are you doing?" Chang howled, startling the aggressor.
The man yanked up his pants and vaulted at Chang, slamming her to the ground and breaking her glasses. With Chang incapacitated, the man then fled, dragging the girl behind him like a rag doll.
Luckily, despite her mangled glasses, Chang caught a glimpse of the license plate number of the man's motor-scooter as he sped off with the toddler pinned between his legs.
Chang immediately hobbled to a noodle stand and called the police, who, using the plate number, were able to arrest the suspect and save the kidnapped girl within hours.
"Mrs Chang's bravery and quick-thinking saved that girl, and we're all grateful," Minister of the Interior Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) said at a press conference yesterday on the rising rate of sexual abuse.
Hosted by the Garden of Hope Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping abuse victims, the conference underscored the problem of sexual abuse of children, from fondling to the type of extreme assault that Chang thwarted, to mark Children's Day -- a UN-recognized holiday -- today.
With one child suffering sexual abuse every 19 minutes, the problem appears to be worsening, Garden of Hope Foundation director Chi Hui-jung (
Interior ministry statistics showed that the number of sexual child abuse cases has increased by an average 20 percent every year over the past decade, with the sharpest annual spike occurring last year, when nearly 4,000 cases were reported -- up nearly 30 percent over 2005.
"But such rising rates don't necessarily mean that abuse is actually worsening. It's more likely that just more cases are being reported," Chi said.
Chi added that the increase in cases has coincided with the government's decade-long crackdown on child abuse, which has focused on enhancing authorities' efforts to detect and report child abuse.
"It's not just the government's responsibility; everybody has to pitch in," Chi said, citing Chang's actions as a shining example.
Chi also praised the government for its efforts to stem sexual child abuse, but said that the general public has a lot to learn from people like Chang.
She cited a rape case last month in which three men abducted a college student in Taipei and took her to a park, where they gang-raped and abandoned her naked in the rain.
A couple spotted the distraught student and drove her to a hospital.
"What wasn't reported by the media is that the wonderful couple weren't the only ones who had seen the victim," Chi said.
"A few passersby crossed paths with the girl before the couple discovered her, but refused to help her -- they were too afraid to get involved," she said.
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