Buddhist monk arrested over child abuse: When those in positions of power abuse trust
Sometimes the culprit can be right under our noses - in schools or other institutions we trust.
In our minds, child sexual abusers and paedophiles take on a standard appearance: male, evil-looking and perhaps old. But what we should keep in mind is this is just a stereotype. In reality, child molesters will more often than not be a known or trusted person – which makes it even more worrying. Recently, examples of religious abuse of children have been making headlines around the world. This shows that even those we look up to and trust can sometimes misuse their positions of power.
Just last month, the Pope apologised on behalf of the Catholic Church, for the many cases of child abuse involving priests that have surfaced. Now, more examples of religious abuse of children – this time by a Buddhist monk – are grabbing international attention.
Bodh Gaya is a UNESCO heritage town in India, revered by Buddhists around the world. On 29 August 2018, Bhante Shanghpriya Sujoy, a senior monk who runs a meditation centre in Bodh Gaya, was arrested on several accounts of child abuse.
The monk reportedly chose 15 boys between six and 12 years old from underprivileged families in India.
According to reports, “the children complained to their guardians about physical and sexual abuse by their head monk.” Confronting the monk only led to the children being locked up, deprived of food and water.
Police investigations reveal that the children had been beaten up, and were told to dance without any clothing. A senior police officer at Bodh Gaya also commented that these were “serious allegations” against Bhante Shanghpriya Sujoy.
Police are also currently examining the trustees responsible for managing the school.
It is usually not easy to find out whether your child has been sexually abused or not. Sexual abuse frequently happens in secret.
The key is that children often show us, rather than tell us when something is upsetting them. Because of this, the HPB advises parents to watch out for changes in their child’s behaviour that may be an indication of sexual abuse.
Here are some signs from the Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet published by The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, USA, which may mean that your child has been sexually abused:
- Changes in behaviour, such as an increase in angry outbursts, being withdrawn etc
- Increased anxiety and depression
- Sleeping issues such as nightmares
- Showing anxiety about being alone with a particular person
- Displaying age-inappropriate behaviour, or sexual knowledge/language
Because children are so young, they can’t identify whether they have or are being abused or not. It is important to educate your children about what is considered safe and unsafe.
One of the things you can do very early on is to always refer to your child’s private parts by their anatomically correct names: penis, vagina, buttocks and breasts. If you are uncomfortable doing so, then use the term “private parts”. Some other tips you can also take note of are:
- Reiterate from a very young age that your child’s body is private and belongs to her and only her. Tell your child it’s fine to say “no” to an adult who touches her body in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable.
- It’s true that we are taught to respect elders in our society. But teach your child that respect does not equate to blind obedience. The HPB advises parents to tell their child that if an adult — including family members — asks her to do something that makes her uncomfortable, it’s okay to not obey that adult.
- Set aside time every day to talk to your child about her day. Experts suggest giving your child the chance the talk about any worries or concerns they might have by asking open-ended questions like, “Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”, rather than sticking to questions such as “How was your day?”
Parents, if you think that your child is being sexually abused in any way, the HPB advises you to first stay calm and reassure your child that you believe her and that what happened is not her fault. Then take your child to a healthcare professional or hospital right away for a health check. You may also want to make a police report.
You may also use the following information to contact the Ministry of Social and Family Development Child Protection and Welfare Service:
Phone: 1800-7770000 (Mon-Fri: 8.30am to 5.30pm)
Counter Opening Hours: Mon-Fri: 8.30am to 5.30pm
Address: 512 Thomson Rd #10-00 MSF Building, S(298136)
References: Channel News Asia