06 June 2014

Without knowing the underlying causes for such violence, how would we be able to prevent it?

LAST week was a particularly horrific and sad week in our country. A man abused his toddler stepson to death. A killer made a little girl his gruesome victim. Over 10 men and boys raped a teenage girl. The mother of another teenager, who was raped by two men, whipped one of the men in public.

As if these horrors were not bad enough, a little girl accidentally fell to her death in a shopping mall.

Most of us would be forgiven for thinking that the entire country needs a flower bath to get rid of what seems to be a dark cloud hovering over us.

But maybe we are not far wrong because there do seem to be bad vibes over our land, fuelled by so much aggravation, angst and animosity among us. Perhaps we are spending so much time arguing over things that don’t really matter that we have neglected what really does matter.

And what does matter? For one thing, the safety of our people, especially our women and children, matters very much.

Every time something as dreadful as child abuse, rape or murder happens, a huge outcry ensues and many newspaper column inches are written anguishing about it, with calls for ever more severe punishment for perpetrators.

Indeed, such perpetrators must be caught and punished so that we all feel safe again.

Let us not forget that the killer of little Nurin Jazlin has never been caught. But let’s also do more about prevention.

Prevention involves investigating and understanding the circumstances under which these crimes happen.

Do people really wake up and think of killing their children that day? Or is that the tragic result of a build-up of stresses and strains that could have been mitigated if only there was help?

Could a rape by people known to a victim have been averted by more vigilant neighbours, directly or indirectly, or by an environment that was different?

If the mother of the murdered child had not been homeless, would the child have fallen prey to the killer so easily?

I really wish our media would probe these cases a bit more deeply. What would cause a whole group of men and boys to band together to rape that young girl?

It was reported that they were high on drugs. What goes on in that village that there can be so many men taking drugs and assaulting girls with impunity?

Is there a larger problem here of unemployment, boredom and rep­ression? In the wake of Elliot Rodger’s mass murders, there were a lot of articles analysing his motivations and mental state.

I wish there were also the same not just for this gang rape, but also the others to see if there are some underlying causes for this violence. Without knowing these causes, how would we prevent it?

Regarding the child who died of abuse, once again we should look at the backstory. There can never be an excuse for child battery but when you look at a young, twice-married mother with many children, you can see how the stresses of such circumstances may make a person snap.

Not all young parents abuse their children, but very often those who do tend to have married and had their children at a young age.

Perhaps they were married off to prevent illicit sex, with no contraceptive advice and little preparation for parenthood.

This particular mother was only 31 and the dead child, aged six, was her fourth. Did her husband find the needs of her children taking away her attention from him?

To me, it’s yet another reason to not allow young people to marry before they are ready for the many responsibilities of marriage and parenthood.

The background of the mother of the murdered child is also a sad tale. With her husband in prison, she was left with three young children and no way of caring for them.

Leaving two with relatives, she was left homeless with her youngest and spent all her time wandering the city and living on the generosity of friends.

Where is our Welfare Department for vulnerable families of prisoners like these? When we send men to prison, do we check on how their families would survive? Or don’t we care?

Our many social problems need to be examined in a much more holistic way than they are now. But that takes intelligence, leadership and compassion.

There can’t be anything more callous than a Minister who blames homelessness on the “generosity of Malaysians”, as if to live on the dangerous streets is a lifestyle choice. Perhaps she should spend a night serving at soup kitchens.

As long as such arrogant blindness prevails, we will never solve these problems. And the violence will continue.