It’s your seventh birthday and all your relatives are sitting around the table. While you enjoy the feast, you make eye contact with one of them who came into your room last night and showed you how to be an “adult”—in all the wrong ways.
Eighty per cent of sexual assault perpetrators are someone the victim knows. It could be a friend, spouse, boss or your neighbor. Unfortunately in the cases of child sexual assault, it is someone from the family.
“It happened to me twice, and both times were my relatives,” says Whitney (first name basis to protect identity). “I was so young I don’t even remember how young I was.”
How frequently does it happen?
Child sexual abuse is ridiculously more common than people know about. The World Health Organisation had published a statistics sheet in 2016 that one in five women and one in thirteen men reported having been sexually abused as a child. In other words, at least one friend among your closest social circle is bound to have been a child victim.
In a city like Hong Kong where the crime rate is one of the lowest in the world, there were reports of 242 girls and 52 boys being sexually assaulted last year. But the reality is definitely direr than the numbers as most of the incidents take place behind closed doors in the “comfort” of their own homes.
“I could never openly confront the relative who abused me because if I did, this would ruin my entire family,” Whitney says when asked about why she never put the offender under the limelight. She mentions a Chinese proverb, which roughly translates to “Unfortunate things that happen at home, should stay inside the home”.
A step towards social change
However, it seems that women and men around the world have finally had enough of it. The #MeToo social movement was actually started more than ten years ago by activist Tarana Burke but gained a massive momentum just about last month after the notorious Harvey Weinstein Hollywood scandal. Since then, there has been a swarm of social media posts where victims have come out with their sexual harassment stories to let victims know that they are not alone. Its effect has also trickled down to Hong Kong, where people are often criticised for their conservative mindset and suppression against conversations related to sex.
A Hong Kong hurdler Vera Lui, recently posted a disturbing but powerful post on her social media page where she shared her experience of being sexually assaulted by her high school coach. The story of this young woman taking her bold step to shed a light on the hidden monstrosity of sexual abuse has sparked immense discussion among the citizens as well as netizens from all over Asia.
We as adults have the understanding of the rights over our own bodies and dignity. But what about the younger ones who are still very much impressionable and vulnerable to the monsters disguised as angels within the family? Is it still too early to have an open conversation with children?
Let them know it’s never their fault.