MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Hundreds of testimonies reveal patterns of abuse in schools


The All Women's Action Society (Awam) has renewed its call for the Education Ministry to create a zero-tolerance culture against sexual harassment in schools and other educational institutions.

This came after it published a report today based on hundreds of testimonies of abuses in schools, many of which were sexual in nature.

Awam demanded regular sexual awareness and sensitisation training for school authorities and incorporating modules on gender sensitivity and awareness in teachers' curricula and code of conduct.

It also wants the Education Ministry to update its guidelines on managing sexual harassment cases and monitor its implementation in schools.

"We cannot remain complacent in the face of decades of such widespread perpetration of atrocities.

"The future of our children depends on the realisation of these actions. We must act now," it said in a statement today.

The testimonies were compiled through an online form by Save the Schools MY (STS) from April 26 to Aug and analysed by Awam.

A total of 770 testimonies were analysed, from which Awam identified 1,145 incidents of abuse and 1,495 violations. There are 204 testimonies that reported multiple incidents and 279 incidents that involved multiple violations.

"Sexual harassment alone constitutes 75 percent of 1,495 violations. The top three forms of sexual harassment were verbal (36.9 percent), physical (35.2 percent) and gestural (13 percent), comprising 85.1 percent of all sexual harassment violations.

"Alleged rape consists of 2.7 percent of all physical sexual harassment violations. The youngest survivor of disclosed age was eight years old.

"In alleged rape violations in which the perpetrator's relationship to the survivor is known, one-third of them were school figures of authority.

"All but one survivor did not tell anyone about what they went through, and yet they experienced negative psychosocial consequences such as social isolation and bullying by family, teachers and friends," it said.

School figures of authority involved are most commonly teachers in cases of sexual harassment in bullying, but ustazahs are more prevalent in cases of period spot checks.

It said underreporting is prevalent in all types of abuses identified in the analysis, but this is especially prevalent for period spot checks and sexual harassment.

Psychological consequences

In most cases where such violations were reported, Awam said most survivors did not have a positive outcome. Instead, no action was taken, or the survivor's claims were not taken seriously.

In instances of period spot checks and bullying, the survivors also frequently experienced harassment by the perpetrators as a consequence of reporting the violation.

Instances of child grooming and stalking were also documented.

Awam said that stalking continued for at least a year in a quarter of cases, and 60 percent of alleged stalking cases also involved other violations, particularly sexual harassment.

Among 1,037 instances where the age of the survivors is known, 199 (19.2 percent) are still below the age of 18.

"Secondary school students consist of the largest age group among all survivors, across all four major violation categories (sexual harassment, period spot checks, bullying, and others)," it said.

Awam added that the trauma of the abuses have led to psychosocial consequences, with 23.9 percent of them saying that it has affected their mental health, school life, relationships or livelihood.

There are also 17 victims who were formally diagnosed with a mental disorder – nearly 75 percent of the cases resulting in anxiety and depression.

The full report can be accessed at Awam's website. - Mkini

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