Serial molester cases on the rise here

The lure of the internet and the lack of social skills are the top reasons for an increase in sex crimes in Singapore.

By David Lim
Tue, Oct 12, 2010
my paper

THE lack of social conditioning and the power of the Internet are some of the top reasons that experts cite for the rise in serial molestation, which is increasingly a cause for concern.

In just three days last week, police arrested two men suspected of being involved in separate series of molest cases in Tampines and Choa Chu Kang.

In the Choa Chu Kang case, a 49-year-old man is believed to have molested at least six teenage schoolgirls.

In response to media queries, the police said that the number of outrage- of-modesty cases showed an 11.7 per cent increase in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year.

When asked about common causes of such behaviour, Dr Carol Balhetchet, director of youth services at the Singapore Children's Society, said: "It could have been something that happened to them (offenders) when they were younger, too."

While most offenders stop after they have been dealt with by the law, others may remain unperturbed by the consequences. Dr Balhetchet said: "Serial molesters actually require a psychological assessment to figure out why they repeat the act. The whole experience of being caught and having the police keep an eye on you can be quite embarrassing. It shows that the deterrent is not strong enough."

Psychiatrist Adrian Wang offered another reason - paraphilia. This refers to a sexual disorder in which someone obtains sexual gratification in an abnormal way.

Paraphilia "is a developmental thing, and it could be due to a person's experiences" while growing up, said Dr Wang.

Factors that could trigger this disorder include being exposed to pornography or being a victim of abuse during a person's developmental phase.

With pornography available over the Internet, statistics on teenagers researching this topic is startling.

A recent global survey conducted by American information-technology security firm Symantec revealed that "sex" was the fourth most-searched word among teenagers online. The survey added that the word "porn" was the fourth most-searched term by children aged seven and below.

Dr Balhetchet said: "We are exposed to so much on the Internet. With the press of a button, our young can reach undesirable sites that influence them."

Earlier last month, a government-appointed Censorship Review Committee proposed the introduction of a server- level filtering service by Internet service providers to replace the current ban on 100 undesirable websites.

The proposal was aimed at allowing individuals and parents to be the decision makers over what Web content should be made accessible in their homes.

However, the proposal was rejected and, so far, only StarHub offers such a filtering service but the take-up rate for its service, SafeSurf, has been low.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) also has sexuality-education curriculum and co-curricular programmes, which are implemented at different levels of a student's schooling years.

However, MOE emphasises that parents play the main role in educating their children.

Mr Seah Kian Peng, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Community Development, Youth and Sports, said: "This is definitely something of concern and we need to get to the root of the problem."

Offering solutions to curb molestation tendencies among youth, he said: "Many things start at home. We should not leave it totally to the schools. Parents also need to play a part."