Teen commits suicide after being molested by counsellor

Teen commits suicide after being molested by counsellor

A teenage girl jumped to her death after becoming depressed when her school counsellor molested her. Look out for signs of depression and read about where to get help.

Teen commits suicide after being molested by counsellorA counsellor is supposed to be there to help with problems, he or she provides an outlet to vent, lends a listening ear and offers solutions. However in this case, the counsellor proved to be the problem, resulting in a 16-year-old girl taking her own life.

Confiding gone wrong
Mr Michael Tay Jau Jen, 36, was a Life Skills lecturer and counsellor at ITE Campus East. Chiu Ka Ying was his student. During a class, he had given some of his students his mobile number, letting them know that they could approach him if they had school or personal problems.

The victim, Ka Ying took up his offer and texted him, disclosing some of her personal problems. They then met a few days later in an empty classroom, where things went from innocent confiding to sexual intimacy.

According to Ka Ying, who later confided in her friend, this happened more than once but less than five times over a period of a month. When questioned why she allowed herself to be touched without resisting, she answered, “My mind was blank and I did not know what to do.”

Keeping it under wraps

Ka Ying, who had earlier refused to report the matter to the police, eventually alerted the school about being molested by Tay. Unfortunately, the school was unable to prove the allegations as there were no witnesses. The school investigated the matter as they believed that Tay had acted unprofessionally. However, Tay resigned before disciplinary hearings could begin, citing personal problems.

Ka Ying in the meantime, was still distressed and had been suffering from bouts of anxiety and panic attacks since the incident. This led the school to refer her to the Institute of Mental Health as she had a history of personal problems and displayed self-harming tendencies. Yet the counselling session at IMH, just five days before she committed suicide, did nothing to prevent her from taking her own life.

Respecting boundaries

Cases of individuals in positions of power taking advantage of those weaker have been on the rise in Singapore, such as the case of a secondary school female teacher having
a sexual relationship with her underage student and the case of the high profile executives who paid for sex with an underage escort.

Tay had blatantly violated boundaries when he became sexually intimate with the victim. According to Tay, the acts were consensual. This “excuse” does not take away from the fact that he had abused his position and taken advantage of a vulnerable and emotionally confused youth who was displaying signs of depression.

Choose a counselor of the same gender

A fellow counsellor, Dr Carol Balhetchet, director of youth services at Singapore Children’s Society, says that it is always best to pair clients with counsellors of the same gender. She adds, "When the topic discussed is such a sensitive matter -- sex -- the counsellor, should have asked for a female counsellor to take over. This should have been done in the first place [as] women will usually understand other women better, especially in 'female problems' and sexual issues.”

Heed the call for help

The most heartbreaking thing in this whole episode is the fact that Ka Ying had reached out to both friends and teachers before she jumped to her death, yet no one came to her aid in time. An important lesson is never ignore any person’s call for help no matter how busy or occupied we are, as it might just be their last.

Looking for signs of depression

Individuals who have a history of depression, are more likely to attempt suicide, here are some signs you should look out for if you think someone is suffering from depression.

1. Difficulty sleeping or other disruptions of sleep patterns
2. Overwhelming feelings of anxiety and/or sorrow at inappropriate times
3. Loss of interest in pastimes formerly enjoyed
4. A sensation of hopelessness, lack of self-esteem and feelings of guilt
5. Fatigue and overall lower energy levels
6. Loss of appetite or abnormally large appetite, leading to weight loss or gain
7. Suicidal thoughts and recurring thoughts about death
8. Irritability, restlessness and short temper
9. Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
10. Difficulty in maintaining close or romantic relationships

Remember you are not alone

If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual abuse, remember that taking your life is never a solution. There are many avenues that you can reach out to if you are being sexually abused or having suicidal thoughts.

If you are uncomfortable talking to your family or loved ones, here are some organizations that you can contact for help:

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS): 1800-2214444
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-2837019
Sage Counselling Centre: 1800-5555555
Care Corner Mandarin Counselling: 1800-3535800

Article by Wafa Merican

Source: Asia One EdAdvantage

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Written by

Sandra Ong

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