Call to save kids from peer sex abuse

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 June, 2008, 12:00am

Veteran actress Josephine Siao Fong-fong, Shrek's Hong Kong co-director-animator Raman Hui Shing-ngai and a dream team have produced an animation to teach teenagers to protect themselves from sexual abuse among peers.

This follows research by the Chinese University which found that of 4,956 students from Primary Four to Form Seven interviewed, students between Forms Five and Seven suffered the highest rate of peer sexual abuse/harassment: almost two-thirds of the boys and almost half of the girls had been sexually abused by their peers.

The study showed 'the number of cases gets more serious as the students get older,' said Siao (above), founder and president of End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation (ECSAF).

'So we made this animation mainly for students between Forms Three and Five when they might start to think about sex. The animation touches on the peer sexual abuse problem and teaches them when to say no. The message is much easier to understand through an animated character.'

The 61-year-old actress described Hui as an angel. 'Raman is such a kind-hearted person. He approached [us] a few years ago and asked what he could do for us. When we learned that he was returning to Hong Kong, we sent him some scripts. He liked the story and immediately said he wanted to volunteer to work on the project. He didn't receive a penny for this.'

Hui works for DreamWorks and is based in the US. He suggested a plan to save time and travelling expenses: 'Raman did all the designs for the plots but let the students from the IVE [Institute of Vocational Education] complete the works as part of their course assignments: the institute is well-equipped with facilities to create animations,' said Siao.

The result is a 3D animation, about 10 minutes long and based on real-life sexual abuse cases, which is planned for release in more than 40 local schools later this year, to reach about 16,000 students.

Siao pointed out sexual abuse can inflict life-long damage. She said children as young as seven years old were abused. Shockingly, most cases of abuse happened between close family members and even siblings.

The actress said the media often sent out the wrong message to youngsters about sex. She said some papers and magazines favoured 'celebrity images where more skin is exposed'.

'A teenager who doesn't understand what sex really is will go and explore it with the person he is closest to, and the easiest target is often his younger sister which is very wrong and sad.'

Siao was a very popular actress in the 1960s but has been out of the limelight for the past decade because of her deteriorating hearing. Siao said she was 'pretty deaf' now and the tinnitus (continuous ringing in her ears) 'is driving her nuts', cutting her off from the public appearances and acting she adores.

But today and tomorrow, she is making an exception to attend ECSAF's two-day carnival on the theme 'You Are My Guardian Angel'. Through games, music and laughter, Siao wants not only to teach children how to protect themselves but also to call upon parents to protect their children against sexual abuse. To coincide with Father's Day, singer and father of two daughters Jacky Cheung Hok-yau will also participate tomorrow to show his support for the cause.

You Are My Guardian Angel, ECSAF Carnival, 12pm-6pm today and tomorrow, Time Square, Causeway Bay. Families welcome