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Ignorance underlies sex abuse

By Yin Yeping (Global Times)

15:45, June 09, 2013

Zong Chunshan believes it is never too early to start talking about sex with children. Photos: Li Hao/GT and courtesy of Zong Chunshan

Zong Chunshan recalls one of his early experiences dealing with the sex abuse of minors. A mother came to his office and said her 16-year-old daughter had been having sex with her new husband for over a year.

That was in 1994, a year after Zong took charge of the Beijing Youth Legal and Psychological Counseling Service Center, the first law center providing legal and psychological services for children.

The woman wanted advice on suing the stepfather, and flatly rejected Zong's suggestion that she find help for her daughter.

"The mother did not want this shameful case revealed to the outsiders," Zong said, noting she never contacted Zong again. This case and others like it made him realize the extent to which minors and parents are burdened with problems related to sex and sexuality, and the lack of support available to them.

Until several recent high profile cases, child sex abuse was a largely ignored topic in China. And it appears to be chronically underreported.

Last year, the center received 20 cases related to sex abuse. That figure has remained generally stable throughout recent years.

One case included a 13-year-old girl raped by a group of her classmates in a hotel. Collecting reliable data is almost impossible.

Beijing police have declined to release any numbers about child sex abuse to Metropolitan.

However, a series of academic studies published in the 2000s estimate the rate of child sexual abuse in China ranges from 16 to 25 percent, depending on how it is measured, with roughly 1 in 10 girls subject to some form of physical abuse.

Zong thinks the key to protecting children from sex abuse and preparing them for a healthy sex life as adults is education.

"On one hand, we condemn the immoral or illegal actions of adults. But on the other hand, we also ignore sex education for children, especially how to protect themselves," he says.

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