A repugnant euphemism for rape is no way to safeguard our children
Sex with a child is rape. Whether constitutional or consensual, it is rape. The media may airbrush it by use of euphemisms such as ‘affair’ and blur the edges with talk of ‘seduction’ but it is still rape. When an affair is being conducted there will no doubt be secret trysts, maybe red roses will be sent and love texts, cute teddy bears or sexy lingerie given as gifts, who knows? But where an adult behaves in this manner with a child it is not sexy and exciting, it is predatory and it is called grooming.
Sure some of you may want to argue the boundaries. You may want to discuss variables which make the term ‘rape’ seem alarmist. How about when the age of consent is 16 and the girl is only a few months short of that and her boyfriend is just 17? Is that still rape? Now what if they have already planned their wedding? What if they have their parents’ consent? Sure we can discuss all of these variables within our communities and our society at large but right here and now we have a case which seems clear-cut as far as reporting goes.
The accused is a 38 yr old teacher and the victim was a 14-year-old girl at the time. Compare it to a case in the United States where the accused recently (December 14th) denied all charges.
Sioux Falls man pleads not guilty to rape, alcohol charges in Huron
HURON — A Huron bar owner accused of raping of a 12-year-old and two 14-year-old girls who was later also charged with serving alcohol to minors while out on bond has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The press there has no trouble in reporting alleged rape as alleged rape.
It is bad enough when a school teacher is involved but similar to cases overseas that have tarnished the reputation of the Catholic church or Penn State University amongst others, an institution where adults are in a position of trust and authority over children has failed to act. What is happening in our schools and what exactly do they think their responsibilities are when a report of inappropriate behavior towards a child on a school trip is dealt with by a warning letter for the teacher concerned? It is difficult to believe, yet alone comprehend why the school authorities took no further action and kept quiet all this time. Again, why did it take the mother’s discovery for the teacher to get fired? Why was a more thorough investigation not conducted in 2008? Was protecting the reputation of the MOE more important than the safety of a child?
There are echoes here of the insouciant attitude of the MOE towards the student Jonathan Wong, already caned for being a Peeping Tom with an interest in young girls, who was still selected to receive a teaching scholarship. Thanks to vigilance by educational authorities in the UK his predilections were discovered and he was sentenced for downloading child pornography.
The point is that we need to have a proper screening system in place. Too often the attitude in Singapore is, “why worry? Nothing can go wrong ” . Until it does, that is and then we lock down the stable door after the horse has bolted. Or in the case of the poor girl who lost her legs on the MRT platform, literally shut the gates. The fact is paedophiles are naturally attracted towards working with children. There will always be (hopefully rare) instances and we shouldn’t take it as indicative of the teaching profession at large . But we do need to protect against it. The Press needs to stop sanitising what is a crime by any definition and the schools concerned ( not forgetting our private tuition industry ) need to take their duty of care to our children much more seriously. Whilst I have no doubt that the legal system will have no trouble dealing out an appropriate sentence the MOE still needs to get its act together. Maybe time to look at bringing in a CRB system such as that used in the UK.
As an ex-MOE teacher and current full time tutor, I have a couple of points to make.
First of all, the good news is that yes, 99.9% of teachers are honest, hardworking people who genuinely care for the wellbeing of the child. There are far more teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to helping those under their care than those few teachers who abuse their calling.
Having said that, our teacher selection system does have some rather glaring flaws that are not just unique to teacher selection alone. We live in a culture which places academic achievement above all else. Using academic achievement solely as a criterion for awarding teaching (and other scholarships) or even a significant criterion for awarding teaching scholarships will all but ensure that there are going to be individuals who can slip through the cracks. This is further exacerbated by using students’ academic performance as a sole gauge of a teacher’s effectiveness, which in turn perpetuates the cycle.
Instead of greater regulation of teachers (which normally is the result of such events, and as Kenneth pointed out, shutting the doors after the horses have bolted), there should be more emphasis on appropriate teacher-selection and more freedom then given to those who make the cut.
Teachers don’t need more rules governing their behaviour. There needs to be a set of rules governing who becomes a teacher to ensure that those in the profession will not abuse that trust placed on them.
I often wonder whether the the source of this problem lies with tort laws. The ability to sue for damages is a huge impetus for reform. Without huge judgments against it, the Catholic Church would not have and did not bother to reform itself from within.
The victims of rape should have this mechanism not only to receive compensation for their pain and suffering, but also to force institutions and people in leadership positions to be held accountable for grievous offenses.
Here the offender is not just a teacher, but MOE and the PAP chain of command. Without the ability to sue, the institutional response both internally and externally is unlikely to change. And to be sure, without a public lawsuit, the true mechanisms of how cover-ups are engineered by public officials there supposedly to safeguard the interests of the citizenry and their children are not going to be revealed.
While the courts are likely to mete out some kind of punishment on the criminal side of the case, I expect there will be the typical silence and intransigence on tort side of things, the place where reform dies.