KOTA KINABALU: Sixty per cent of statutory rape cases in Sabah involve couples who hooked up through social media, State Criminal Investigation Department chief Datuk Sallehuddin Abdul Rahman said today.
"Children under 16 years of age (are) engaging voluntarily in sexual activities with partners (met) through social media platforms, especially the WeChat application.
"Their cases were reported to the police when their parents found out, or the teens got pregnant," he told the New Straits Times.
Sallehuddin said there were 1,381 cases including statutory rape, incest, sodomy and molestation reported between 2012 and 2016 in the state.
On average, police receive about 300 sex crime reports annually, with the state capital recording the highest incidence.
"Kota Kinabalu is the most densely populated (area) in Sabah, thus more cases are being reported.
"Our investigations also revealed perpetrators are mostly locals. Only a few involve foreigners," he said, adding that suspects are either teenagers or adults.
Among the challenges that police face during investigations of sex crimes are victims not reporting incidents to the authorities immediately; the young age of victims; lack of eyewitnesses; and young couples getting married in villages through illegitimate means and not having valid certificates.
However, Sallehuddin added that police had solved 90 per cent of child sex abuse cases within the five-year period mentioned, and in 64 per cent of the cases, the perpetrators were charged.
On awareness programmes, he said police have been going to primary and secondary schools to educate students on the issue of sexual abuse.
"(But) family institution are important to (help) prevent children from engaging in inappropriate sexual activities.
"Choice of friends is also significant, as they influence peers' social activities," he added.