Sex abuse cases doubled from 2014 to 2015
Sexual abuse cases involving children doubled last year.There were 82 cases - up from 39 cases in 2014, says the Ministry of Social and Family Development. Sadly, some victims did not tell on their attackers until much later or when other adults found out by accident. LINETTE HENG (firstname.lastname@example.org) finds out how parents can protect their children
The mathematics tutor was highly regarded by his students and parents.
He conducted lessons in his flat, and some of his students would even stay over at his home when the exams were near.
But over a span of two years, he sexually abused five boys, aged between 13 and 15, by performing lewd acts on them and got them to do the same to him.
His heinous crimes were only exposed when a school counsellor noticed that one of the victims was having problems with his grades and his relationship with his mother.
In 2003, the tutor, then 52, was jailed 18 years.
When interviewed by a psychiatrist, two of the victims said they felt ashamed about what happened, but they still held their tutor in high regard.
One even said he was afraid to tell his parents because he was worried they would stop the tuition classes and his maths grades would suffer.
Similar cases of sexual abuse involving the young and a trusted adult of authority have surfaced over the past few weeks.
Often it takes years before a sex fiend is exposed.
So what can parents do to be aware of a trusted teacher or close family member who might have sinister motives?
Ms Frances Yeo, a psychologist who runs her own practice at Thomson Medical Centre, said that in these cases, sexual grooming usually takes place before any act is committed.
This makes it more difficult for the victims to tell on their abusers because they have positive feelings towards them, she explained.
She said: "(The abuser) will buy gifts for them, make them feel good and along the way, instil fear in them. If the child 'passes the test' by not informing his or her parents, the abuser will take it further."
Boys are also less likely to admit they have been sexually violated, said Dr Brian Yeo, who specialises in child and adolescent psychiatry.
He said: "Boys are less likely to be suspected as victims of abuse, compared to girls, and they are seen to be able to defend themselves.
"Some male victims would see the abuse as something shameful and a threat to their masculinity, so they would not want to report it."
The experts also pointed out that some children are more at risk of being abused.
Dr Alvin Liew, a psychiatrist at Adult & Child Psychological Wellness Clinic, said this includes children who have special needs, come from challenging family environments or have a psychiatric condition.
Dr Ken Ung, a psychiatrist who runs his own practice at Adam Road Medical Centre, said sexual predators pick their young victims very deliberately.
He added: "They will target a child who is more submissive and timid, instead of a bold and assertive child, so they can get away with it."
So what is the right age to teach children about inappropriate behaviour?
In a Straits Times report in May, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said sex education is available from the primary school to junior college level.
At the primary school level, sex education topics taught include managing changes when growing up and building healthy relationships.
At the secondary school level and beyond, issues on sexual health and behaviour are taught, along with prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and decision-making, among others.
NO MINIMUM AGE
MOE's stance is that sex education should begin at home with parents, continue in schools with teachers, and be supplemented by community efforts, reported ST.
Dr Liew said there is no minimum age for sex education because different children mature at different rates.
He added: "Once a child is able to communicate meaningfully in a sustainable manner, the child can start to be educated about what may be unacceptable behaviour towards him or her."
But this does not mean that parents should be wary of every adult who is close to their children, said Dr Ung.
He suggested using books to teach younger children about appropriate behaviour and consent. For older children, news reports about similar cases would be a good platform for discussion.
Dr Ung added: "Parents can take sensible precautions and provide a warm and safe environment, so that (their children) will not be afraid to confide in them if something happens to them."
Child sexual abuse cases double
Number of sexual abuse cases investigated by the Ministry of Social and Family Development's Child Protective Service
Number of rape victims aged between seven and 19, according to police crime statistics