KUALA LUMPUR — Nearly nine in 10 minors raped in the last two years were attacked by people they know, police data revealed.
While the common fear is of attack by strangers, most of the rapists were boyfriends, close acquaintances, and even family members.
The fact, in turn, presents the police with a two-fold problem that hampers investigations and successful prosecutions.
Bukit Aman Sexual, Women, and Child Investigations (D11) Division assistant director Supt Siti Kamsiah Hassan said when victims are attacked by people they know, they tend to hesitate in coming forward immediately — or at all.
For investigators, delays can make all the difference between an airtight case and one that is mere allegation.
Immediate reports allow investigators a chance to collect crucial medical evidence to build a case against the attacker. Even a day’s delay can result in much of this being lost permanently.
“They (the children) have probably showered and cleaned themselves, making it harder to obtain forensic evidence,” Siti Kamsiah told Malay Mail in a recent interview.
“The delay poses a challenge to police when trying to obtain clues from the supposed crime scene.”
The passage of time also makes it harder for victims to recall the incident in detail. Sometimes years may go by before the attacks are reported.
“[The victims] have to remember the case facts, and slight inconsistencies can cause the case to be thrown out, especially if the defence counsel probes further.
“When we go to court we want to make sure there is sufficient evidence but sometimes there are flaws or the victim does not recall the complete incident,” Siti Kamsiah said.
Familiarity with minors sometimes give rapists sway over their victims, who may view their attackers as having authority over them.
They may also be conflicted by existing emotional bonds, especially in cases where their rapists are family members such as fathers, brothers or uncles.
“This in turn causes the victims to not have the heart to report the abuse against their close friends or family members,” she said.
With the D11 dealing with sexual crimes against minors, Siti Kamsiah said occasionally the victims were simply too young to provide reliable or usable testimony against their attackers.
Often, they do not realise they have been sexually abused. Even when they do, they do not know how to respond.
“They are sometimes too young, aged three or four years old, and are unable to differentiate between affection and abuse,” she said.
“The victims would have been assaulted from a young age, and it would have taken place more than once over the years. Several years later when they are older, then only would they share their stories with their friends and make the realisation.”
According to data provided by the unit, there were 1,257 rape cases involving minors reported last year, down from 1,350 cases in 2016.
Selangor recorded the highest number of rape cases in both years: 281 in 2016 and 296 last year.
Of the nationwide total, about 11.8 per cent were incest cases.
She said based on investigations, most incest cases involved middle-class families living in suboptimal conditions that force one parent to be away often, or where family members are compelled to share sleeping spaces.
The lack of parental or adult supervision is another major contributor .