Difficult work protects most vulnerable children

Updated: 2013-11-20 07:07

By Gan Tian (China Daily)

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A 62-year-old Canadian man, who directed a Chinese father to sexually assault his 1-year-old son over Skype, was sentenced to five years in prison last month.

When Shanghai-based writer Chen Lan read the news on the Vancouver Sun's website, she was shocked.

The report said the Canadian had visited the Chinese father and son on a trip to Shanghai in September 2009, and in 2010, the man and the father used Skype to see each other and to chat, with the Canadian directing the Chinese father to perform sex acts on his son.

Believing the son to be still in danger, Chen immediately called Shanghai police, but up to now, she has not received any response.

Difficult work protects most vulnerable children
Unspoken shame

Chen's team members have also begun to contact the Canadian police, hoping they can provide more details, so that in China, she and other volunteers can help save the young victim.

Chen is the founder of Home of Little Hope, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent child abuse in China. Founded in 2012, it now has 300 members, many of whom are professional lawyers, psychologists and doctors.

The organization assists with various cases of people in need. Earlier this year, a 12-year-old girl in Hunan province gave birth to a child, the result of a sexual assault. The organization helped the girl and her family move to a new place where people did not know them.

"Among all these different forms of child abuse, sexual assault is the most common. It happens not only to girls, but also boys," Chen says.

China's NGOs involved in child protection, especially from sexual assaults, are needed more than ever before. In May, a primary school headmaster in Wanning, Hainan province, was accused of assaulting six female students. Over the next three months, 12 cases of sexual assault on children were reported nationwide.

In July, a forum was held in Beijing to discuss how to prevent children from sexual molestation. The organizers are established NGOs in the related field, including the Maple Women's Psychological Counseling Center, Home of Hearts Foundation, and the Zhongze Woman-legal Aid.

Some NGOs are involved in prevention. Beijing Rural Women Culture Development Center has built two experimental centers in Kuancheng county, Hebei province, and Suizhou county, Hubei province.

The organization invited professionals to lecture on the issue, teaching children's guardians to identify the sexual molestation. Staff members from the organization gave regular lectures to children, teaching them to protect themselves from being sexually abused. They also try to convince prosecutors, police, and the public that this issue is not a small family problem.

"One of the biggest difficulties is people take it as 'losing face', especially in rural areas. It helps the abusers to become more fearless in committing the crime," says Xie Lihua, BRWCDC's founder and president.

The center, founded in 1993, specializes in providing help to women in rural areas. However, during their work, Xie and her co-workers found there are many cases of sexual abuse involving "leftover children". These children are left in their hometowns in the countryside because one or both of their parents are migrant workers.

Whenever Xie and her team members go into these places to work, they hear people talking about abused children. She says she has heard of at least 20 cases.

She hopes what she does is helpful in the prevention of sexual molestation of children. This November, the organization will publish a book for children, and also a guideline for parents and teachers.