It is every parent’s nightmare that his or her children could somehow be hurt and they are powerless to prevent it. So imagine Alvin Teoh’s rage and heartbreak when his daughter fell victim to a pedophile teacher when she was 7 years old. It was nightmares come true.
Child sexual abuse was not a headline grabbing issue until recently, when British pedophile Richard Huckle was found guilty and given life in prison for the abuse of at least 23 children in Malaysia and Cambodia. It was all the more shocking for our society, which has long treated pedophilia as something foreign and may rarely if ever happen to our children.
A lack of awareness, and poor-to-no sex education in Malaysia, particularly among rural and more strictly religious communities, is cited as a factor that makes Malaysian children particularly vulnerable to predators like Huckle.
Yet, as shown by the abuse of Teoh’s daughter, this is an issue that does happen in Malaysia, perpetuated by Malaysians. It is not a Western, “white-man’s” disease. In fact, in many cases it is a family member or a trusted adult who takes advantage of the child. Just because we don’t talk about it does not mean it does not happen.
That’s why Teoh, who is an executive creative director in advertising agency Naga DDB, created a campaign called Stop Nursery Crimes. It aims to get people talking, and educating their children on the wrong kind of attention.
This is an attempt to tell Malaysians that if you do not teach your child sexual education, someone else will, in the wrong way.
The campaign features three films, one each in English, Malay and Chinese, each of which leads to a microsite that provides information on how to spot the signs of abuse, how to react to a case of child abuse and where to seek help.
The disturbing films all show men eerily singing popular nursery rhymes in English, Malay and Chinese while their hands caress the young children innocently oblivious to what is going to happen to them.
These videos are very hard to watch as a parent, but the shock factor is intentional. Teoh believes that there is a need to shock, and that greater awareness and education on the issue outweighs the negatives. “It’s controversial and straightforward,” he said. “We knew we couldn’t hold back on shocking people, and we didn’t want to be too clever about it. People are meant to be angry, to be in denial. Any response is a good response.”
“We want people to talk about it and we want to drive the microsite to seek information and to seek advice and help via PS the Children, an NGO that is at the forefront of the battle against this abuse,” he concludes.
This is only the first phase of the project, with more issues to address, like cyber-stalking, empowerment of survivors of child sex abuse and even child brides. But with conversations sparked, hopefully more parents are now motivated to discuss these uncomfortable, yet necessary topics with their children.
Quotes from www.campaignasia.com