SINGAPORE — Jun yearns to learn how to swim. The young boy is happy when Mok, an uncle from a neighbouring village, offers to teach him.
With time, Mok starts touching Jun’s private parts. Tormented by Mok’s actions, Jun begins having nightmares about an octopus pulling him down to its cave, which eventually reaches out for his baby sister.
Jun later confronts his fears and tells his parents about the traumatic experience.
These are snippets from a children storybook launched on Wednesday (29 May) to educate young readers on the topic of child sexual abuse prevention.
The folk tale of “Jun and the Octopus”, authored by Goh Eck Kheng and illustrated by Lim An-ling, is published by the Singapore’s Children Society (SCS).
SCS’ chief executive officer Alfred Tan hopes that the book will encourage parents or educators to have meaningful conversations with young children about the touchy issue of sexual abuse, without having to go through the media or a third party.
Citing statistics by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), Tan noted that child sexual abuse cases under investigation had more than quadrupled from 45 in 2009 to 248 last year.
“It’s never too early to talk to them. To me, one child abused is already one child too many,” Tan added.
The issue of child sexual abuse came in the spotlight recently after a Singapore-based Australian man last week pleaded guilty in Melbourne to 59 offences of the nature. At least five boys from Singapore were among the victims whom Boris Kunsevitsky, 53, sexually abused during the 16 years he worked here.
Lin Xiaoling, SCS’ deputy director of the advocacy and research department, stressed that stories of child sexual abuse are not uncommon and “happen more often than we think they do”.
Parents should be “brave and open” about having such conversations with their children, instead of skirting around the sensitive issue, said Lin, who is a mother of a six-year-old daughter.
“Many times, it is adults who are not comfortable with sharing and we keep a lot of things from children, thinking that they don’t understand. But actually they do,” she added.
Adults can teach proper terms of private parts to their children and remind them about the issue by illustrating “bad” scenarios.
“It’s only when children have the information, they would know how to react when they are caught in such situations,” said Lin.
There are plans to translate the book, currently available in English, into other languages for children living elsewhere in the region, such as Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
The SCS will look at different ways to publicise the book, including organising readings at relevant venues, added Lin.
1,000 copies of “Jun and the Octopus” are available in its initial print run. It is on sale for $18 at selected book stores, including Books Kinokuniya, Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop, and Woods in the Books.
The book is an extension of the SCS’ existing sexual abuse prevention programme called “KidzLive: I Can Protect Myself”, which is offered at pre-school centres.
Aimed at educating children aged four to six, the programme has drawn almost 11,000 attendees since 2011.
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