Rape within the family: The silent problem
Akhbar Satar 

Last month, a 50-year-old lorry driver from Johor, who sexually assaulted his biological daughter for four years, was sentenced to 81 years’ jail and eight strokes of the rotan. The father pleaded guilty to five counts of incest committed against the girl from when she was 11 in 2011 till 2015. The victim, now 17, is the second of six siblings.

The accused was charged under Section 376B (1) of the Penal Code with raping, molesting and forcing his underaged daughter to perform oral sex at a rented house in Taman Sri Saujana and in Felda Air Tawar 3, Johor.

The victim’s uncle also pleaded guilty to molesting the girl at the same house in Air Tawar. He was jailed for five years for the offence under Section 354 of the Penal Code for assault or use of criminal force on the victim with intent to outrage her modesty.

Meanwhile, on Aug 15, a mechanic was jailed for 26 years and ordered to receive six strokes of the rotan by the Special Court for Sexual Crimes Against Children for incest and committing sexual physical contact against his 14-year-old stepdaughter.

Then, on Aug 25, a farmer and his three sons were sentenced to a total of 105 years’ jail after they pleaded guilty to 13 counts of incest on two sisters, who are the daughters of one of the sons.

The 57-year-old farmer, who is the girls’ grandfather, was charged with six counts of incest and jailed for 25 years.

Despite this, two of his sons, aged 42 and 26, who were charged with two counts and one count respectively, were each jailed for 25 years. The 42-year-old son is the girl’s father. His other son, aged 28, who was charged with four counts of incest was given the maximum jail term of 30 years.

On Sept 16, a 44-year-old security guard and his son were found guilty of raping the guard’s daughter, who is the son’s own sibling, five years ago. The victim was then about 10 to 12 years old. The son, aged 19, also allegedly committed an illegal act on the girl in December 2015, when she was 13 years old.


The deepest heartaches

Even a 72-year-old grandfather together with his son, 40, and three relatives, aged between 16 and 21 were charged with raping his granddaughter in Limbang, Sarawak.

It is so sad that this happens in families. Members of the immediate and extended family are supposed to be the children’s safe haven but very often the home is the place where we find the deepest heartaches and problems.

Incest is defined as forced sexual activity, sexual abuse or sexual conduct between relatives in the immediate or extended family. Incest can be harmful because of the close relationship the offender has with the victim. It often shatters a trusting relationship and usually involves the abuse of power where one person uses his power to manipulate another person.

According to most researches, the vast majority of incestuous relationships are between fathers and daughters. The incestuous or intra-familial molester is usually an adult male but mothers or other female caregivers also sexually abuse children.

When it happens in Malaysia, there are commonalities: most cases are perpetrated by fathers, stepfathers, brothers, uncles and grandfathers. The majority of the victims are girls. The rape usually happens at home. Often it occurs when one or both parents are away, working overseas or in a different city, and the children are left under the care of a relative.

It is believed that incest is one of the most under-reported forms of crime due to the intense level of shame associated with this type of sexual abuse.

Incest and rape cases are serious in Malaysia. Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim stated that a total of 22,234 sexual abuse cases were reported from 2010 to May this year, with 13,272 being rape cases. Johor recorded the highest number of rape cases at 2,089.

Other sexual abuse cases included incest (1,796 cases), unnatural sex (1,152) and molestation (6,014). The highest number of incest cases were recorded in Sabah, with 263 cases, while Selangor had the highest in unnatural sex with 235 cases and molestation (1,052 cases).

As for another aspect of incest cases, last year’s statistics showed that the majority of victims were girls. The breakdown of perpetrators: 23.1% were fathers, 23% (stepfathers), 18.7% (uncles), 12.5% (brothers), 7.25% (cousins), 5.3% (brothers-in- law), 1.6% (grandfathers) and 1% (stepgrandfathers).

It is estimated that Malaysia currently records an average of 70 new drug addicts a day. There are studies which indicate that one of the risk factors related to substance use is parents being involved in a serious romantic relationship abuse.

Incest is an offence under section 376A of the Penal Code. A person is said to commit incest if he/she has sexual intercourse with another person whose relationship to him/her is such that he/she is not permitted, under the law, religion, custom or usage applicable to him/her, to marry that other person.

Any person found guilty of incest faces a jail term of up to 30 years and no fewer than 10 strokes of the rotan.


The punishment

Rape, on the other hand, is a crime under section 375 of the Penal Code where a man forces sexual intercourse on a woman without her consent, against her will or if she consented out of fear for her life. Section 375 (g) states it is an offence to have sexual intercourse with a girl who is below the age of 16, with or without her consent. The punishment for rape is not less than 10 years to a maximum of 30 years and also whipping, as stipulated under Section 376.

The punishment for incest is more severe than for rape due to its repulsive nature as the perpetrator is related to the victim. Many studies have shown the most common form of incest happens between older male relatives and younger females.


Long-lasting effects

The effects of incest vary for survivors. Some long-term effects may be devastating to someone’s life and well-being. For example, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is usually suffered by those who were child victims. PTSD is a mental and physical health problem that usually includes stress, flashback, anxiety, nightmare, depression and other behavioural indicators.

Other problems include drug abuse, alcohol abuse, suicidal behaviour and family problems. The victims repeatedly attempt to run away from home. There are also many short-term and long-term effects that children can experience due to incest.

Thus, there needs to be not only therapy for victims, but also prevention programmes to help lessen the incidence of incest.

This is a sad situation for the country, especially when we pride ourselves as having a strong religious and ethical culture. Let us combat this evil, report the crime and help the victims. We need to get serious about sexual crimes.

Datuk Akhbar Satar is the director of Institute of Crime & Criminology, HELP University, a criminologist and certified fraud examiner. Comments:

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 258.