Jakarta International School child rape claim shocks expat community

Jakarta: The rape of a five-year old boy in the toilets of the prestigious Jakarta International School  has shocked the expatriate community and prompted a discussion in Indonesia about the prevalence of child sex abuse.

The boy, who turned six last week, has contracted herpes and a bacterial infection allegedly as a result of two anal rapes by members of the school’s outsourced cleaning staff in February and March.

Two men — employees of the international contract cleaners ISS — are in police custody. They are alleged to have attacked the boy during school hours when he went to the toilet near his classroom. Jakarta police say two more men and one woman are also under investigation.

The boy is the son of a Dutch father and an Indonesian mother. He attended the school's early childhood program.  After initially requesting privacy, his mother went public with graphic details on Monday, motivated, according to lawyer Andi Asrun, by disappointment that the school had not acted more quickly to address problems. They say his teachers should have been aware of the boy’s long absences and should have noticed that he was upset when he returned to class.

Mr Andi said during one of the attacks, the boy had been locked inside one of a number of janitors’ closets inside the toilet, so that he “couldn’t be heard screaming”.

“If the kindergarten student goes to the toilet, the teacher should accompany the student, or at least observe from outside,” Mr Andi said.

Since his client had gone public, he said, another mother had come forward to say her young son had told of being attacked in the toilet by men in blue uniforms but that the boy had fought them off.

Head of School Tim Carr has said the school was cooperating fully with authorities and had made changes to security, including the placement of closed circuit TV cameras, after it was informed of the attacks. It has also offered support and advice to parents.

Police have urged parents of other students at the school to check the behaviour of their children and report anything suspicious.

Mr Andi said that, apart from providing information to the police for a criminal case, the family would issue civil proceedings against the school and the Indonesian education minister on Monday. They will seek a court order to close the early childhood program for “failing to protect the children”, and also for not having a proper licence to run a kindergarten. The department has given the school one week to apply for the correct licence.

The school, which teaches the children of many of Jakarta's expatriate community as well as some Indonesians seeking a English-language education for their children, was set up in 1951 with the involvement of foreign missions including the Australian embassy. The embassy still has a representative on the board.

The attack has made the front pages in a number Indonesian newspapers. Indonesian officials including the Commission for Protection of Children have been called in, and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife Ani were quoted on Thursday offering their support to the family.

The issue of child sex assault is rarely aired in Indonesia, but coverage since the attack has prompted suggestions that it’s a growing problem. A headline “Safe Nowhere” in the English-language Jakarta Globe newspaper summed up the sentiment that, if it can happen at this privileged and security conscious school, it's likely to be a much more widespread problem.

The boy's father told Fairfax Media that, as a result of the publicity, he had been contacted by people from all over Indonesia telling them about their own children’s abuse. “They’re talking about it because of this, and that’s the positive thing we have taken from it,” he said.

The Jakarta Education Agency has sent a circular to all local schools advising them to improve security and alert teachers to be aware of suspicious behaviour by both staff and students.

In a letter to parents, the school said it had reduced access to the campus for outsourced staff and had enhanced security and enforcement. The ISS cleaning staff working at the time no longer work at the school.

The letter, signed by Mr Carr, said outsourced staff would also be required to comply with the same medical tests as employed staff. The school has implemented a child protection program across the school and would set up an independent review of the incident, the letter said.

Disclosure: The author has two children attending the Jakarta International School.

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