Security at the front gate of the exclusive Jakarta International School.
A second case of potential child abuse has emerged at the prestigious Jakarta International School, further fuelling an already heated public debate about sex abuse in Indonesia.
On Wednesday, the parents of a six-year-old student reported an alleged attack or attempted attack in the school toilets to Indonesia’s child protection agency, KPAI, who immediately informed the local media.
KPAI head Erlinda, said medical examinations had been carried out on the alleged new victim, but the results were not yet available.
The new allegation came as the school was already reeling from the rape in February and March of a five-year-old pre-school student by contract cleaners, also in the school toilets.
It was also revealed this week that the American Federal Bureau of Investigations has launched an unrelated investigation into a former teacher at the school, William Vahey, who killed himself in March after photographs emerged of him molesting 90 or more drugged and unconscious adolescent boys since 2008. None of those attacks are alleged to have occurred at JIS, but Vahey taught at the school between 1992 and 2002 while his wife, Jean, was deputy principal.
The news about a school most Indonesians view as an exclusive western enclave have prompted enormous media interest and discussion about the rarely raised issue of child sexual abuse.
JIS head of school Tim Carr said on Thursday that the initial sex assault was an “incredible tragedy” for the family and the school community.
Speaking at a forum on child sex abuse alongside KPAI chief Erlinda in Jakarta on Tuesday, Mr Carr acknowledged that the recent events and media coverage had damaged the school’s reputation, and that the subsequent move by the Ministry of Education to threaten to close the preschool over an unrelated licensing issue was “adding some salt to the wounds”.
He acknowledged that the school had initially been too slow to provide information to the media, but he also criticised journalists who he said had named the abused boy, got facts wrong and displayed an “appalling lack of journalistic integrity”. Reporters had approached young students outside the school gates and “badgered” them into giving interviews, he said, which had “done nothing but compound the trauma”.
Erlinda defended the local media, saying they had “reacted this way because … the school didn’t allow them inside,” to “investigate” the story.
Mr Carr said he hoped that “from here on” the school would have a “very positive and helpful relationship” with KPAI. But he subsequently grew angry that Erlinda was discussing details of the alleged second case at the public forum.
“All of this should be treated with the utmost confidentiality … We should not be learning about this sort of thing in the media straight away. Why did that happen? Who told the media about this? Why did I learn about it that way? This is ridiculous,” he said.
Child psychologist Seto Mulyadi said child sex assault was a large and under-recognised problem which was often “taken lightly” in Indonesia. About 2000 cases of child sex abuse were reported in the last 12 months in Indonesia, but he said it was an “iceberg phenomenon”.
Disclosure: The author has two children attending the Jakarta International School.