Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nuts and bolts for child protection

By Yoon Sung-min

Again, female minors have been sexually assaulted or abused.

I am heartbreakingly saddened by the fact that these children have been victimized not only by heinous sexual predators but also by ordinary people such as older children, adolescents, and/or adult neighbors.

A child was abducted and raped by a sex offender in a school. Another minor was coerced and sexually attacked inside her home. A group of elementary school students sexually molested a younger disabled child at their school.

Seemingly gentle neighbors sexually harassed one female child in their neighborhood. These ongoing stories are reported in the newspapers almost daily.

Obviously, these victims share common characteristics. They were weak, young and female. They were victimized in their own neighborhoods or schools.

Furthermore, it is regrettable that these incidents could have been prevented. In fact, child sexual abuse is not new to us. Many children have been sexual abused, attacked, harassed and/or molested. Most cases are unknown or go unreported.

Over the past several years the rate of sexual abuse toward minors has doubled. As we already know, a series of horrible sexual offenses have alarmed us and instigated the need for sound protective systems.

On a disappointing note, only mere fragmented measures thus far have been suggested to prevent these heinous acts toward young children. I argue that now is the critical time to revamp child protection laws and regulations as well as remedying child welfare systems to protect our innocent children.

It is imperative to note that other countries with more advanced child protective systems were once experiencing the same challenges as we face now. The bottom line is to learn from these failures in the past and not to make the same mistakes again in the future.

The basis of protection should be harsh punishment and protective systems. These are increasing jail terms, implementing mandatory tracking devices and operating sex offender registry databases.

For effective child protective measures, a centralized child protection agency must be established. This body would not only investigate and prosecute child abusers, but also provide preventive services and programs.

As another effective measure, parents, custodians, legal guardians and/or other responsible adults must accompany all young children, especially those under 12 years old. This could prevent many child sexual offenses in South Korea.

Along with punishments and the protective system, we need to improve our social imparity and social injustices which are causing a critical dismantling of social integration, thereby causing more crime and harming innocent victims.

Child welfare system should provide more public nursery and after-school programs so that children are cared for and protected while their parents work. The above suggested ``minor child accompaniment rule" will become nonsense if both parents are forced to work to make ends meet while children are left alone at home and/or on the street.

Last but not least, we have to rekindle our responsibility for raising not only our own children but also other children in our neighborhood. No efforts will be successful without the supports and efforts from every ordinary citizen.

I was shocked to hear that nobody reported the frightened child, who was being abducted by a sexual predator, even though he appeared reasonably suspicious.

If we ignore and neglect our children, child sex offenses will not be prevented. I hope we all join in to this responsibility.

The Korea Times:

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