World

Ashamed, they refuse help over child abuse

M'sian families of victims of paedophile Huckle are not coming forward

KUALA LUMPUR More than six months after Richard Huckle was sentenced to life in jail for sexually abusing scores of children, most of the families in the Malaysian communities where he lived are declining counselling and other help, police say.

Huckle had posed as a freelance photographer, English teacher and Western philanthropist over the past decade to gain access mostly to impoverished communities in Kuala Lumpur, where taboos around child sex abuse often prevent families from disclosing it.

Police reached out to 320 adults and 101 children in two communities affected by the paedophile, said the head of the Sexual, Women and Children Investigation Division of the national police.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Ong Chin Lan said: "We have identified a few victims. We have tried to identify communities. But we respect the parents and guardians' view of not coming forward. They don't want to lodge a police report because of pride and shame."

AC Ong said the police, along with the women's ministry and non-governmental organisations (NGO), have conducted programmes focusing on providing counselling and therapy for the victims and their families. She did not say how many have participated.

Non-profit groups trying to work with the victims say they too have difficulties in getting victims to come forward.

At the community where Huckle lived, residents avoid discussing the issue, according to its community leader.

"We were all shaken for two to three weeks, but now we don't talk about it," he said.

He insisted there were no victims in his community.

The only reminder of Huckle is the safety workshops conducted by Protect and Save the Children (PSC), an NGO that has been in touch with the community since early last year.

PSC is holding workshops to teach children about good and bad touching, in hopes that Huckle's victims will come forward. Around 20 of the 70 children in the Indian community have attended the workshops.

Huckle was arrested in London in 2014 after an Australian detective unit discovered his activities on the "dark Web", where members exchanged child sex abuse images and tips.

He was given 22 life sentences in June after admitting to 71 charges of sex abuse against children in Malaysia and Cambodia from the ages of six months to 12.

The Huckle case has prompted Malaysia to look at strengthening its laws.

Late last year, the Cabinet approved draft legislation that would widen the definition of child sex crimes to include online abuse and set up a special court to deal with cases quickly.

The Bill is expected to be introduced in Parliament in March. - REUTERS

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