Prevention Better than Cure for Victims of Child Sex Crimes

In a sex education manual that is about to be released to prevent junior high school students from falling victim to sexual violence, the Ministry of Health and Welfare urges youngsters to learn to defend themselves instead of relying on passers-by to come to the rescue. The ministry advocates kicking an attacker in his "private parts" and planning ahead by carrying self-defensive tools such as a rape alarm or mace spray.

The measures, which attempt to curb the number of attacks, also suggest victims "shout loud enough to be heard 1,000 m away." This marks a dramatic change from the previous advice given to children to avoid staying out late, or politely telling their would-be abuser, "No, I don't want you to do that." Unsurprisingly, the former methods were criticized for being useless.

Sexual violence against children in Korea now occurs at a rate of 17 cases per 100,000 children, which is much lower than in Western countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom and the U.S., but higher than Japan. However a look at sexual crimes committed against children over the last four years shows that Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany saw huge decreases, while Korea saw an alarming 69-percent rise. Criminals such as Yoo Young-chul, Kang Ho-soon, Cho Doo-soon and Kim Kil-tae committed serial murders and sexual abuse against children, but their victims were helpless and unable to resist their assaults.

The latest manual teaches children to train themselves to "use proactive methods" to protect themselves against assailants. But a guideline published by the U.S. National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA) says that, although self-defense training is important, equally important is the development of verbal skills that can be used to psychologically defeat an assailant. The NCASA advises persistent resistance rather than surrender. Scientific research, rather than looking for effective self-defense skills, should form the basis for a more effective program to train children to protect themselves.

If adults fail to prevent young people from falling victim to such assaults, then we need to teach them how to make the right decision independently and escape from dangerous situations, and make sure they become adept at developing such skills. Rather than teaching them how to resist sexual violence, we must also remember that it is more important to train them to avoid exposing themselves to such risks in the first place.

englishnews@chosun.com / Aug. 16, 2011 12:49 KST