Vietnamese parents know less than anyone in the region about what child sexual abuse is and how they can prevent it, according to survey results released Wednesday by an international child rights advocacy group,
Many Vietnamese parents were unable to clearly verbalize behaviors or identify examples of child sexual abuse, according to the report, commissioned by World Vision International and entitled “Sex, Abuse and Childhood: A study about knowledge, attitudes and practices relating to child sexual abuse, in travel and tourism, in Cambodia, Lao, Thailand and Vietnam.”
The report presents an overview of the findings of separate surveys conducted in the four countries between 2011 and 2012, by the Project Childhood Prevention Pillar with funding from the Australian government and support from World Vision.
“Limited understanding of child sexual abuse by children and adults means that cases can go undetected,” said Aarti Kapoor, regional program manager of Project Childhood.
The internet was used by sex offenders to de-sensitize children to acts of abuse, the researchers found.
“Many children do not understand the risks of using the internet and are unaware that many sex offenders will try to lure children through chat sites. As a general rule, children should never chat with strangers online,” said Nguyen Khanh Hoi, National Coordinator of Project Childhood Prevention Pillar of World Vision Vietnam.
New forms of child sexual abuse have been appearing due to a boom in technology, he added.
“Sexually abusive acts, such as uploading child abuse images via sex websites or sex chatting with children or forcing children to reveal their bodies via webcam, are not generally recognized as forms of sexual abuse. We found that children did not seem to be aware of the danger that strangers posed online”, he said.
In Vietnam, all of the interviewed students brought their cell phones to school. Every day, they texted between 50 and 200 messages, spent two to seven hours using the phone and between one and four hours chatting online or playing video games.
One 16-year-old female high school student reported that 20 of the 200 IDs on her yahoo contact list belonged to strangers whom she now considered her friends. She gave her mobile phone numbers to five of those strangers, of whom four were male.
Of the total 600 respondents, 275 people (156 children and 101 adults) were interviewed in Vietnam. The respondents consisted of school children, street and working children, parents and relatives, friends of children, duty bearers, hotel owners, orphaned and abandoned children and men pursuing girls for sex.
The report recommended further child sexual abuse prevention education.
“We know from international experience that child sexual abuse prevention education is an effective preventative mechanism to build resilience against abuse in vulnerable communities,” said Kapoor. “Children and adults need the information, skills and strategies to protect children from all kinds of sexual abuse – whether committed by a stranger, foreigner, local person, friend or family member”.
Hoi said: “We cannot achieve sustainable success in child sexual abuse prevention and protection by raising awareness of only one separate targeted group. We also cannot impose or prohibit children from their desire to explore the world by using the internet and technology.”
“Integrated education and communication for children, family and community members should be implemented," he said.
The report also indicated that orphans and children in difficult circumstances, especially those living in rural indigenous communities tend to be targeted by foreign sex offenders.