Tougher laws urged after rise in number of young sex abusers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2007, 12:00am

An advocacy group is urging a zero tolerance policy on sexual abuse of children after releasing a report revealing an 'alarming' rise in the number of suspected abusers under the age of 19.

Against Child Abuse reported receiving 61 sexual abuse cases in a one-year period in 2006-07, 19 of which were under the age of 19.

Of those, 15 were aged under 14, and four were between 14 and 19.

The number of under-19 sexual abuse cases in the group's 2005-06 study was nine out of 59.

Against Child Abuse director Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, who called the trend alarming, said the reason for the increase in the number of young abusers was the lack of parental guidance and increased access to the internet.

'The parents tend to satisfy their own wants and forget their children,' Ms Lui said. 'The children ... can't tell what is good for them, and many of the children meet friends with unsuitable peers [such as gang members].'

She added that the internet allowed children to learn more about sex, and the information they got online aroused their sexual curiosity.

'Although the total number of cases is just 61, it shows a very alarming trend that younger people are more prone to abuse children sexually,' Ms Lui said.

The 61 reports involved 69 children. Of those, 28 (or 41 per cent) were aged seven to 12. Fifty-one of the children said they knew their abuser, of whom 26 said the abuser was a family member.

In 2006-07, Against Child Abuse handled 884 cases of child abuse of all types - whether sexual, physical or psychological - a 10 per cent increase over the previous year.

The total number of victims was 1,027. Of the 1,027, 42 children were aged two or below.

Ms Lui said that she saw no evidence of the government's determination to solve the problem of child abuse in the past year.

She added that the lack of legislative action and administrative policy enforcement to punish violent acts against children amounted to nothing more than lip service.

Against Child Abuse called for legislation on corporal punishment as soon as possible.

'Parents should treat their children as teachers treat their students,' Ms Lui said. 'If the teachers are not allowed to beat their students, why should parents be an exception?'

Ms Lui said Sweden legislated against corporal punishment in 1979, and the crime rate of teenagers in the country did not increase afterwards, so there is no validity to the argument that teenagers would be bad if they are not beaten in childhood.

She added that a legal ban on corporal punishment could improve society's awareness of the need to protect children.