China logs 30 per cent rise in reported sexual assaults on children

Non-governmental organisation says number could be much higher, as most attacks go unreported

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 8:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 10:57pm

More than 430 cases of sexual assault against children were publicly reported on mainland China last year, a 30 per cent increase on the previous year’s total, according to a non-governmental group.

In its fourth annual survey of media and court reports of child sexual assault, the Beijing-based Girls’ Protection Foundation said most of the assaults occurred in rural areas.

The foundation warned that the real total could be much higher because most cases were not reported.

Last year’s total of 433 cases was the second highest of the past four years – the greatest number was in 2014, when 503 cases were reported.

“The public and media have been paying more attention to child sexual abuse in recent years, but it is still far from enough,” foundation founder Sun Xuemei said on Thursday, releasing the report.

“The high numbers in the past three years show how severe the situation is, and only a tiny fraction were reported.”

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Most of the victims were girls and boys aged between 12 and 14, who accounted for 58 per cent of the reported cases. Sixteen per cent of assaults involved children under seven, with the youngest victim less than two years old.

Three-quarters of the reported cases last year were from rural areas, surpassing urban areas for the first time in four years, which the report said suggested increased public attention to child abuse in the countryside.

Many children “left behind” in rural areas lacked proper guardianship, and rural schools and communities were well behind their urban counterparts in sex and self-defence education, the report said.

About 61 million children are left behind in the countryside while their parents work in urban areas, according to official data.

According to the report, 70 per cent of the assaults were by people the children knew, including teachers and tutors, neighbours, relatives, family friends and even family members.

Specialists called for education to be strengthened both at home and in schools to raise awareness of the issue

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Tong Xiaojun, a child protection expert at the China Youth University for Political Studies in Beijing, said awareness of child protection was particularly weak in less-developed rural areas.

“These children lack the care and protection from a normal family and are an especially vulnerable group,” Tong said.

Specialists called for education to be strengthened both at home and in schools to raise awareness of the issue.

A survey of 9,151 parents conducted by Girls’ Protection last year found 42 per cent of respondents had never talked to their children about how to protect themselves from sexual abuse.

“Many parents who never talked to their children about it are not aware that sexual assault could happen to their own children. They’re also less likely to find out after their kids are sexually abused. We still have a long way to go to raise everyone’s awareness,” Tong said.