Student sexual abuse goes unreported, students scared to talk: experts
Students lack knowledge about sexual abuse behavior
A recent incident involved the headmaster of Thanh Son Ethnic Minority Boarding High School, Dinh Bang My, who was accused of sexually abusing many boys.
The news stunned parents. While Vietnamese parents always remind their daughters to protect themselves from sexual abuse, they believe that boys don’t need the protection.
“That is wrong for parents to think that,” said Dr Tran Thanh Nam, from the Education University, a member of Hanoi National University.
Mai Thi Buoi from CASGA, a center for children, said, after implementing a program at an ethnic minority boarding school, noted that students lacked knowledge about sexual abuse behavior.
In many countries, sex education is a part of the official curriculum, but in Vietnam it is not considered an important school subject.
While Vietnamese parents always remind their daughters to protect themselves from sexual abuse, they believe that boys don’t need the protection.
“They don’t know what behavior is called sexual abuse. The school doesn’t provide knowledge about this and there is no official notice about where students can lodge complaints if they are abused,” she said.
“As students lack knowledge and cannot seek help, they feel scared and dare not tell their stories to anyone,” she warned.
Many schools sometimes organize meetings between psychologists and students on the topics. The Thanh Son Ethnic Minority Boarding, where the aforementioned sexual abuse case occurred, also organized such meetings.
Buoi said students need to be better informed about such behavior, and that schools need to tell students where they seek help.
“Boarding schools should have officers in charge of this issue. Mailboxes could also help. However, such simple tools are not available at many schools,” she said.
What do students do if they are abused? Nam said they will complain to teachers and parents, and will remain silent to avoid trouble.
“Only the children who have deep knowledge can lodge complaints and claim protection. The children who don’t receive basic knowledge about children’s rights and laws will not,” Nam said.
Nam believes that it is necessary to teach students to raise their voice.
“They have to learn when they have to raise their voice and protest against evils,” he said. “The information about children’s rights must be provided regularly in school. There must be hotlines for students to call when necessary.”
Nam also suggested measures to prevent sexual abuse. “Mandatory mental health examination of teachers should be required to discover abnormalities,” he said.