Sexual predators run riot in schools

By Charundi Panagoda-Sunday, July 20, 2014
Parents reluctant to complain due to social stigma, intimidation
Last week, a Kegalle district primary school principal was arrested for sexually abusing
eight schoolgirls. The father to two children, 52yearold Swami!elu Sukumar is
accused of showing pornography and then on se!eral occasions sexually abusing the
!ictims aged between "" to "# years.
The principal was apprehended after a child who had dropped out of school confided
to go!ernment officials that the reason she was no longer attending school was
because the principal was $hurting% her.
These are not the first complaints lodged against Sukumar& 'n 2("2, when he was a
principal at a different primary school in )ranayaka, the *onal education office had
recei!ed an anonymous phone call complaining of sexual abuse perpetrated by him.
“+ut when ' went to the school to conduct an in!estigation, ' couldn%t gather any
e!idence from either teachers or students, so we dropped the case,, a -awanella
education di!ision official told the Sunday Times.
.n a pre!ious occasion, one !ictim%s father had gone to the school and yelled at
Sukumar, but had ne!er complained to the police. 'n!estigations later re!ealed that a
teacher at the school had brought the principal a cup of tea while he was committing
sexual abuse. That teacher is also currently under in!estigation.
'n the same week, a principal of a /ambantota area school was arrested for indecently
exposing himself to a "2yearold female student. The criminal in!estigation re!ealed
that the accused principal had committed the same offence at a pre!ious school.
0arlier this year, a #1yearold sports and computer teacher was arrested in
)nuradhapura area for sexually abusing nine underage students. )nother principal at
-ahiyangana was arrested for sexually assaulting a fellow teacher%s fouryearold
daughter while they were on the way to a funeral.
This year, from 2anuary " to 2uly "3, the 4ational 5hild 6rotection )uthority 7456)8
recorded 1"3 complaints of rape, sexual harassment and gra!e sexual abuse cases
committed against children. Last year there was a total of ",112 such complaints.
'n 2("2, police recorded ",39# child rape cases, in addition to :" cruelty to children
cases and sexual exploitation of children cases recorded for the first ;uarter of the
year. 'n 2("", police recorded a total of ",15: cases of child rape or incest, in addition
to <## cases of unnatural offences, grie!ous sexual abuse, cruelty and sexual
exploitation cases committed against children.
The increased number of child rape cases is not necessarily due to an increased
number of incidents, it could be explained by increased awareness and impro!ed
complaint systems, officials say. The highest number of child abuse cases reported
islandwide are from 5olombo and =ampaha districts and this is due to the >good
reporting system in these areas,, an 456) spokesperson 0diriweera =unasekara
said.
The actual incidence of child abuse in Sri Lanka is not known. ?esearch indicates that
the numbers reported to the authorities are much less than the actual occurrence. 4o
organisation, go!ernment or otherwise, is able to pro!ide proper statistics regarding
child abuse in the country, according to a 2("# study conducted by forensic scientists
and @udicial medical officers at 6eradeniya Ani!ersity.
Studies on child abuse show that a considerable amount of teens in Sri Lanka ha!e
been abused at some point in their li!es. The great ma@ority of the !ictims know their
attackers. ) 2((5 study found that girls were at a higher risk for sexual abuse than
boys particularly in the "3 to "9 age group.
“There%s a general lack of awareness of how to report cases to the proper channels,,
Br. ).4. Cadyasinghe, senior lecturer at 6eradeniya and one of the researchers
in!ol!ed in the 2("# study, said. >0!en last Dednesday police sent two parents to the
hospital to ha!e their child examined for sexual abuse. +ut they @ust hung around for
o!er three hours not knowing the process.,
-ostly, parents are reluctant to file complaints of child sexual abuse because of social
stigma, intimidation or e!en economic reasons. Schools would rather ha!e sex abuse
cases swept under the rug in case a scandal might >tarnish the good name of the
school,, 2oseph Stalin, secretary of the )ll 5eylon Teacher%s Anion, said. -ore often
than not, school officials could intimidate a !ictim or a !ictim%s parents against lodging
a formal complaint, such as by threatening to expel the child or to expose the
supposed >bad character, of the child, former 456) 5hairperson /arendra de Sil!a
said.
“Cery often the child is the person blamed for this,, Br Sil!a added. >+ack when ' was
chairman, a principal from a !ery prominent school found out that one of the teachers
had been sexually abusing a child. The school co!ered it up by telling the parents $you
can either take a lea!ing certificate or we%ll expel the child.% Dhen they spend a lot of
money getting children into schools, often as bribes, they don%t want to change
schools.,
“The abuser is often in a position of power, whether it be a father or a uncle at a
household, teacher at a school, school prefect, coach or the head of an orphanage,,
he added. >De bring up our children telling them to do whate!er the adults tell them to
do. .nce abusers ha!e power o!er the children, they can threaten the child. Dith
small children, they can be tricked into thinking it%s a game.,
.nce stories of abuse get out, !ictims could be sub@ected to >secondary !ictimisation,,
where they are shamed or socially stigmatised.
>.nce e!eryone knows about it, it%s difficult for the !ictim to continue education,,
6rofessor Cadysinghe said. >+lame could come to parents. They might not ha!e much
social support.,
)nother >burning issue, in child sex abuse cases at schools is that the accused school
officials are transferred instead of taken to court, -r. Stalin said.
“There is no proper procedure to in!estigate and prosecute perpetrators,, he said.
>'nstead they keep getting transferred to different schools, where they get the
opportunity to abuse e!en more children. Eor children who complain, there are no
steps taken to ensure their safety. ,
456) deputy chairperson Su@atha Kulatunga said the )uthority is conducting
awareness programmes islandwide for principals and teachers on pre!enting child
abuse and secondary !ictimisation, in addition to pro!iding psychosocial support for
!ictims.
“De ha!e an )ngel network, where !olunteer child protection officers conduct
grassroots ad!ocacy programs in !illages,, she said. >De%!e had !ery good
responses. 6eople see this as a worthy program because they don%t want to see these
sort of abuse cases happening anywhere.,
Eurthermore, the 'nspector =eneral of 6olice, working with the 456), has sent a
circular to police stations islandwide instructing them to in!estigate, within 3< hours,
cases reported to the police by the 456).
Seven Navy personneí suspected of sexuaííy abusíng two prímary
schooígírís ín |ahna were remanded untíí Monday by |ahna |uvenííe Court
Magístrate K. |eewaraní íast Fríday.
The suspects, aíí saííors statíoned at the Karaínagar Navaí Base ín Kayts,
were produced before the court on Fríday for an ídentíñcatíon parade. The
víctím present couíd not make a posítíve ídentíñcatíon, T. Víswarupan,
Probatíon and Chííd Care Servíces Commíssíoner for |ahna, toíd the Sunday
Tímes.
The men were granted personaí surety baíí of Rs. 50,000 each but theír
reíease couíd not be ñnaíísed as court proceedíngs ad|ourned for the day.
The ínvestígatíon wouíd contínue despíte the víctíms not makíng a posítíve
ídentíñcatíon, Commíssíoner Víswarupan saíd.
The harrowíng taíe was uncovered earííer thís week by Probatíon and
Chíídcare Servíces (PCS) omcers when they were ínquíríng ínto a number of
absenteeísm ín schooís ín víííages ín Kayts, Commíssíoner Víswarupan saíd.
The omcers asked the príncípaí of one of the schooís why an 11-year-oíd
gírí had been absent for some 11 days. When the príncípaí asked the
parents of the chííd why theír daughter had not been to schooí for thís íong,
the bamed parents had repííed that theír daughter íeft for schooí each
morníng.
The gírí díscíosed to ínquíríng PCS omcers that the suspects had gíven her
chocoíates and bíscuíts and befríended her. The víctím had saíd her níne-
year-oíd cousín, who waíked wíth her to schooí, was aíso sexuaííy abused
on muítípíe occasíons.
Both víctíms were admítted to the |ahna Teachíng Hospítaí for a medícaí
examínatíon
“Both víctíms are now ín protectíve custody and we are arrangíng for them
to receíve counseíííng and therapy," Commíssíoner Víswarupan saíd.
Meanwhííe the Ceyíon Teacher´s Uníon (CTU) ín a press reíeased expressed
concern regardíng the "death threats" that are "íntímídatíng the víctíms´
parents ínto sííence."
“Even when a seríous críme has occurred, |the threats| the parents are
receívíng índícate that the ínvestígatíon ís beíng híndered by outsíde
ínñuences," the press reíease stated. "A number of íncídents ííke thís have
been reported from the Northern Provínce ín recent tímes..Because the
perpetrators of such crímes are not presented ín front of the íaw to do
|ustíce; these crímes are gettíng worse day by day."
The CTU has aíso formaííy compíaíned agaínst the Natíonaí Chííd Protectíon
Authoríty (NCPA) to "ensure the safety of the gírís and to make sure that
they receíve |ustíce."
NCPA Chaírperson Anoma Díssanayaka was not avaííabíe for comment
despíte muítípíe attempts.
Posted by Thavam

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