KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 — In their fight against the abuse of minors, Bukit Aman is cracking down hard on anybody or anything that contributes to the sexual exploitation of children.
Including tracking down the IP addresses — or the unique numerical label assigned to each device — of those viewing child porn websites.
“Even if you just click on a child pornography page out of curiosity, it is a crime,” said Bukit Aman Sexual, Women and Child Investigations Division (D11) principal assistant director ACP Siti Kamsiah Hassan.
“So don’t be surprised if we come knocking on your door. We have had a special task force since 2018 armed with the latest technology to trace IP addresses and we also work hand in hand with Interpol to trace local viewers here.”
She added the department is particularly concerned about the trend of sexual exploitation of minors between the ages of 10 and 15.
“Sexual cases involving a child is higher than child abuse cases overall, that is the trend. This age group seems to be the group involved in all sorts of online sexual exploitation, sex scams and sex threats with the availability of all sorts of information communication technology and this is a worrying rise that we are working on tackling,” she told Malay Mail recently.
Based on the department’s statistics, child crime cases decreased overall this year with 6,168 cases recorded from January to August compared to 7,358 cases during the same period last year.
However, Siti Kamsiah said there has been an increase in child pornography cases this year with 24 cases reported till August 13, compared to only 11 cases last year during the same period.
Why those aged 10 to 15?
Siti Kamsiah said the main reasons behind the rise in sexual exploitation cases within this age group is due to their sexual curiosity, and culprits know that this age group can be easily targeted.
“In this age group, they will be very curious to explore their sexual desires and at times they engage with the opposite sex willingly. However, it is still a crime.
“It is still statutory rape when you engage in sex with a child under the age of 16 even with their consent. They will still be (considered) victims and you will be guilty of enticing and taking advantage of them. This is stipulated in the Child Act which is to protect the underaged,” she said.
Statutory rape refers to sexual relations with someone below the age of consent. People who are underaged cannot legally consent to having sex, so any form of sexual activity with them is a violation of the law. This applies even in situations where they signal their agreement.
Siti Kamsiah further said those in this age group are heavy users of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and messaging applications like WeChat, which makes it hard for the police to trace offenders.
There are also child sex scam syndicates which make teenagers perform an obscene act on video. These teenagers are duped, such as into thinking this may get them into a K-pop group.
“Even if the child voluntarily gives such a video over the net, it is a crime on the receiving end as this is considered child pornography,” she explained.
Most recently, a 20-year-old youth who had threatened to upload private photos of a 17-year-old girl was sentenced by a magistrate’s court to 21 months’ jail for criminal intimidation and possession of pornographic materials. The girl committed suicide because of the threats.
The suspect G. Vieshnuu pleaded guilty to three counts of criminal intimidation and possession of pornographic materials and was fined a total of RM17,000 for the three charges.
“What worries us more is that these teenagers suffer in silence... they live in fear and keep giving in to these sex exploiters. We have several times received tip-offs from Interpol who traced some of our victims through IP addresses when they go after a syndicate overseas.
“And when we knock on their doors, the parents are shocked that their children have been exploited. Some of the victims also like to stay in such a relationship with these sex exploiters online and support such activities but we still take action against them (exploiter) for ‘deceiving’ a child,” she added.
Viral social media culture of child abuse and sexual exploitation
While some people say there are benefits of sharing child abuse cases or sexual exploitation cases on social media, Siti Kamsiah said sharing such cases online is considered a crime and called for such practices to stop.
She told Malay Mail that by sharing such cases on social media there are more negative than positive outcomes.
“Under the Child Act, it is a crime to reveal a child’s picture or their identity openly when they are victims because it involves their dignity and safety as they grow up. That’s why this shouldn’t be a trend. If you know something, come to us first,” she stressed.
Another hurdle D11 faces when a video goes viral is that digital evidence can be tampered with and contradicting statements that will jeopardise their investigations and court proceedings.
“When you make something viral on social media, the information can be tweaked, changed, and even if it’s true that such an incident took place, it alerts the suspect to delete evidence.
“By the time we get to the suspect, digital and crime scene evidence has been tampered with. The thousands of nasty comments on a social media posting will confuse a child growing up as they are vulnerable and might believe anything that is said thus causing them emotional disturbance.
“This will cause a lifetime of trauma to the child as even if it is deleted, people can reproduce it on several different platforms,” she said.
D11’s challenges as a unit
Siti Kamsiah, who assumed her position as principal assistant director in early June, said she hopes to empower her department to meet the expectations of changing times.
Siti Kamsiah, who was the deputy principal assistant director of D11 for more than three years, knows the department’s challenges in and out.
She said hers is an unusual unit in Bukit Aman and requires trained knowledgeable officers who are well informed and are able to deal with matters that are very sensitive.
“We don’t have specific D11 units at district levels. Therefore, we need more trained officers. They need to start from the district level, gather all the experience at the contingent level before assuming a position in Bukit Aman,” she said.
Siti Kamsiah said at the moment the unit has Investigating Officers with the rank of Inspector in Bukit Aman.
“It is imperative that officers in our unit are experienced to deal with D11 cases because when you investigate child or women abuse cases, it involves those who are very vulnerable.
“You need to have basic knowledge of experience and empathy. If you don’t have those, it will be difficult to lead as you are dealing with emotions here... with kids and domestic violence. It’s not easy to handle,” she said.
She also highlighted that her unit is in need of more ICT, special equipment and laptops at all levels.
“We need to keep up with changing trends of internet child exploitation and be ahead with better technology and knowledge. Suspects are getting more high tech so we need experts in our department,” she said.
She said the department currently only has 19 D11 officers to deal with cases nationwide.
“We cannot have Inspector-level officers in Bukit Aman with less than 15 years’ experience when they are supposed to be still gaining knowledge on the ground.
“Public expectation is very high. They want things very fast. I have brought this matter up to the IGP and relevant minister and even the logistics department here in Bukit Aman. I hope the matter can be resolved soonest,” she said.
* A previous version of this story contained an error which has since been corrected.
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