Sexual Harasments 101

 STOP! No means, NO!

According to All Women’s Action Society (AWAM), sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances that is imposed on and is unsolicited by the recipient. Such an act is often perceived as intimidating, aggressive, humiliating or with the intention to violate a person’s dignity.

Just recently, an issue occurred in March 2022, has caught our attention when a father of a 11 year old daughter confronted his daughter’s school van driver for allegedly sexual harassing his daughter. He is believed to have harassed his daughter sexually. According to the young girl, the driver held her hands, rubbed her thighs, gave her a juice bottle and promised her chocolates.

Protecting our children from any sort of danger has been one of our biggest priorities as parents. Educating our children on such dangers is crucially important as it protects them. Apart from teachers, guardians and caretakers, parents have the biggest influence on their children’s life, especially when it comes to educating them about health sexual developments and the reducing the risk of sexual harassments or abuse.

The different forms of sexual harassments

The most obvious example of sexual harassment is the form of an unwanted physical act such as hugging, kissing, touching, patting, pinching or stroking of hair or any body parts in an unwelcoming manner. However, physical act isn’t the only form of sexual harassment you should be aware of. For instance, there’s:

  • Verbal: Sexually suggestive remarks, unwanted questions on personal life, jokes or sounds, such as catcalling.
  • Gestural: Unwanted leering, whistling, staring (peeping toms), flashing of private parts, showing off hand signals or sign language.
  • Visual: Using or displaying of obscene materials like drawings, images, text that conveys sexual interests.
  • Psychological: Repeated and unwanted social invitations for dates or physical intimacy or blackmails that condition to sexual favours.
  • Online: Receiving, sending or posting comments via online or sharing someone else’s sexual photos or videos online directly or publicly without their consent.

How to protect my child from sexual misconducts?

Sexual harassment is a serious offence and should not be taken lightly. Below you’ll find some precautions you can take to help protect the children in your life from experiencing such encounters as well as educating them on the importance of sharing information with you in order to stop such situations from arising.

Be involved in your children’s life

Being actively involved can help your child feel more comfortable coming to you if something isn’t right, as well as make warning signs of sexual abuse more visible. Always ask questions about their day-to-day lives. For instance, you may ask questions like below:

– Who did you sit with during lunchtime?
– What games did you play after school and with whom?
– What games did you play after school and with whom?
– Who are your teachers?
– Tell me more about your friends.

Ask your children about the parents of their friends, people they may have an encounter with such as training coaches or the vendors they often visit after school while waiting to go back home.

Start doing this at an early age. This will eventually become a habit and your child will feel comfortable to share information with you.

Be diligent about screening caregivers for your child

Choosing an appropriate caregiver is one of the most important decisions parents need to make. Talk to friends and family who have caregivers and do some research on your own before making a decision. This process is crucial as your child’s life is in the hands of their caregiver and it isn’t in your interest to put your child at harm. Only get a caregiver if it’s necessary.

If you already have a caregiver, always check up on both the caregiver and your child to know what their day was like. If ever your child says something that is entirely different from what the caregiver has told you, that could be a clear warning sign. So, talk to your child privately and find out the true story.

Good touch, bad touch

It can be quite a challenge to explain the concept of sexual harassment to children, especially if they’re still young at age. Oftentimes, the concept is difficult for them to grasp which may induce fear that can eventually lead to anxiety. One way you can teach them about “good touch and bad touch” is through songs. Some of the songs that can teach children how to take care of their bodies are:

– My Body is My Body song.
– The ‘What If’ Game Song.
– If It Don’t Feel Right – Don’t Do It.
– If You’ve Got A Problem.
– Love is Gentle.
– Say “NO” To Secrets.

Sing along with your children and help them remember the important values on guarding their body by practicing these songs with them.

Know the warning signs

Familiarise yourself with the warning signs of child sexual misconduct. If you notice any changes with your child, no matter how small they might be, talk to your child and find out what happened.

At times, they can be afraid to share, so be as calm as possible and give them assurance that it’s alright for them to open up to you.

If you notice any changes with your child, no matter how small they might be, talk to your child and find out what happened

Get help now!

If your child or anyone you know is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to call 911. If you aren’t sure of the situation but suspect your child is being harmed, you can take steps to gauge the situation and put an end to the abuse by contacting any of of the Malaysian organisations from below:

WOMEN’S AID ORGANISATION (WAO)

Operating hours: 24-hour

Contact: +60 3-3000 8858

SMS/WhatsApp: +60 18-988 8058

ALL WOMEN’S ACTION SOCIETY (AWAM)

Operating hours: Monday to Friday (9.30am – 5.30pm)

Contact: +60 3-7877 0224

WhatsApp/Telegram: +60 16-228 4221, +60 16-237 4221

SARAWAK WOMEN FOR WOMEN SOCIETY (SWWS)

Operating hours: Monday (7pm – 9pm),Tuesday to Thursday

(9.30am – 11.30am), Saturday (2pm – 4pm)

Contact: +60 82-368 853

SMS/WhatsApp: +60 16-582 2660, +60 13-804 4285

WOMEN’S CENTRE FOR CHANGE PENANG (WCC PENANG)

Operating hours: Monday to Friday (9am – 5pm)

Contact: +60 4-228 0342 | +60 4-398 8340

WhatsApp: +60 11-3108 4001, +60 16-418 0342

SABAH WOMEN’S ACTION-RESOURCE GROUP (SAWO)

Operating hours: Monday to Friday (9am – 5pm)

Contact: +088-280 200, +60 11-2790 8020

PROTECT AND SAVE THE CHILDREN

Operating hours: Monday to Friday (3pm – 12am)

Contact: +60 16-721 3065

Let’s protect your children and loved ones from being sexually harassed. If you or someone you know may be at risk or has experienced any forms of sexual assaults and abuse do not hesitate to reach out to some of the Malaysian organisations above.

Sources: AWAM, RAINN, Free Malaysia Today