Jakarta Police Cast Wider Net in Child Sexual Abuse Case at School i

Jakarta. Police are looking into the possibility that more children might have faced sexual violence at the Jakarta International School, where a 6-year-old was allegedly raped last month. The investigation will also be expanded to look at the possible involvement of other members of the janitorial staff. “We are now reviewing the behavior of other staff members there [at the school]. We are investigating the possibility of more victims,” Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said on Tuesday.

Police have named three people, including a woman, as suspects for the alleged sexual assault of the boy in the school’s South Jakarta campus. “Two suspects, A.G. and V.I. alias Awan, have been detained. A woman [with the initials A.F.] is not yet in police custody, but has been named a suspect,” Rikmanto said, adding that A.F. is wanted for allegedly having known about the incident but not reporting it.

“The woman is still considered a  suspect. She knew about it, she condoned it and failed to step forward,” he said. In addition to a confession, laboratory tests by police reportedly confirmed that the two male suspects had committed the alleged offense.

“Both eventually admitted to have assaulted the child on March 20 in the  school’s  bathroom,” Rikwanto said.

Rikwanto said investigators will continue to question the suspects on the possible involvement of additional perpetrators. “[The interrogation] is being dealt with. We are also hoping this child can recall [the incident]. We will help jog his memory with a reconstruction,” he said.

Rikwanto added that the perpetrators likely suffered from psychological problems. “The suspects are restroom cleaners. They [may] have a psychological illness. Every day they see male and female  students wash their hands or use the toilet. These type of criminals often choose their victims; they target those whom they can easily trick,” Rikwanto said. But he said that investigators were still unable to establish the chronology of the incident because the boy was struggling to tell the story.

“He uses children’s language. We will continue to gently coax him to remember the details. We will try to make him more comfortable,” he said.

School’s responsibility

The Indonesian Commission for Children Protection (KPAI) approached the school to ask for some form of responsibility over the incident. KPAI chairman Asrorun Ni’am Sholeh said the commission visited the Jakarta International School campus for further information related to the case. “We’ve received information from  the [KPAI] secretary related to the matter, but we still need to clarify a few issues,” Asrorun said, adding that the commission had also asked about the school’s teaching and training process.

“Training is an integral part of any company, not just a school; it involves the cleaning service, school administration, library staff and so on.  “They all have an important role in an educational institution.” KPAI said it was taking measures to help the young victim cope and begin to recover from the traumatic event. “We need to immediately deal with the boy’s physical and psychological recovery. Post-traumatic stress syndrome can be  extremely debilitating. The school should also play a part in his recovery,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Jakarta International School has not released any statements regarding the case, though it has beefed up security surrounding its Pondok Indah and Cilandak campuses, denying entrance to reporters.

Inner circle

Sexual predators do not wait for victims in dark alleys, experts and activists say. Perpetrators are often close to the victims, particularly family members.

“This is nothing new; children have long been the victims of sexual violence by  people they know. More and more incidents are only now being reported,” said Vitria Lazzarini, coordinator of Yayasan  Pulih, a foundation offering psychological assistance for victims of sexual assault. The victims’ age range also varies, according to Yayasan Pulih, which recently received a report of the molestation of a  22-month old infant by a family member.

“Cases such as these are particularly disturbing. The home is supposed to be a child’s safe haven; not a place of fear,”  Vitria said during a victim’s account forum at the University of Indonesia. Children who fall victim to sexual  violence often experience a delayed  response, while some deny the abuse as they are unable to understand what they experienced.

During UI’s survivors’ accounts forum, a  participant confessed that she was raped by her uncle in her own home when she was 5 years old. She admitted she was too young to understand the meaning or concept of rape and only realized as a teenager that what her uncle had done to her was not only a crime, but a horrific violation. 

“The [psychological] impact on adults who realized they were victims of rape as a child is significant, especially in communities where virginity is greatly valued. They start to feel impure and worthless, pushing them down a spiral of depression, and, in some cases, suicide,” she said.

Cases of sexual abuse are often kept secret as they become a blight of shame on families. “If this is condoned, the abuse will  continue to occur because there are no sanction for the perpetrators,” she said.

Vitria called on parents to start sexual education at a young age by teaching children the sanctity of their bodies.

“Aside from reminding children to be careful with strangers, they should also be taught which parts of their bodies cannot, by all means, be touched by others, including their own parents," she said. “Not only girls will benefit from this;  reports of sexual abuse toward boys are  increasing."

Vitria emphasized that if children still suffer from assault despite measures to prevent it, parents should not blame themselves. “Remember, the perpetrators are to blame,” she said.

Suspicious behavior

To prevent any forms of sexual abuse against kindergarten and playgroup students, the Jakarta Education Agency sent a circular to schools advising them to improve security measures that may detect suspicious behavior in both staff and students.

“To prevent minors from falling victim to sexual abuse in school, we  issued a  circular that was sent out to kindergartens and playgroups in Jakarta so that they can seriously improve security. The notification will help [detect]  indications that can be prevented as early as possible,” Jakarta Education head Lasro Marbun said.

Data from the Jakarta Education Agency showed 3,854 kindergartens and playgroups currently operate in Jakarta, with 175 being state run and the rest privately owned. In addition to increasing security around campuses, Lasro also emphasized the continuous improvement of school management, particularly the human resources department, in their ability to  select and supervise their employees.

“School employees, including teachers must be constantly monitored to ensure every inch of the campus is under management supervision.  “All of this is to prevent such a case from recurring in any school, whether it be  international or run by the government,” he said.

Lasro was shocked by the incident at the Jakarta International School. “Such an offense cannot be tolerated. The school has to apologize to the child’s parents and immediately bring the perpetrators to the authorities who will bring them to justice,” Lasro said. “The victim should be given the appropriate help him so he may overcome psychological trauma.”

He added that the Jakarta Education Agency was unable to intervene in the case because JIS falls under the supervision of the National Education Ministry.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to take any action against the school. It [JIS] does not fall under our authority,” he said. Lasro hoped the education ministry would take immediate actions in not only helping the boy, but in protecting Jakarta International School’s large population of students as well. “We hope the National Education  Ministry understands the severity of what has happened. They must do everything in their power to prevent such a horrible  incident from happening again,” he said.

According to the latest reports from the capital’s women and children’s empowerment integrated service centers, or P2TP2A, reported cases of violence against women and children surged by 40 percent between 2012 and 2013.

East Jakarta recorded the most cases with 31 percent, followed by Central Jakarta with 18 percent, while 15 percent of all cases were reported in both West Jakarta and North Jakarta. Seven percent were reported in the Thousand Islands district.

Margaretha Hanita, chairwoman of the the P2TP2A, said the reported number of women and children facing violence continued to rise, with 468 reported cases last year, up from 325 in 2012 and 251 in 2011. The figures may have risen due to risen efforts to make reporting easier, such as sexual violence website kekerasanseksual.komnasperempuan.or.id, created by the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) to help authorities protect survivors and bring perpetrators to justice. Such cases remain likely to go unreported.

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