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Indonesian nun helps trap alleged child abuser

Sister encourages mother to break local tradition of silence in such cases to have teacher arrested

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Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Indonesian nun helps trap alleged child abuser

An Indonesian teacher has been accused of sexually abusing a young girl pupil. (Photo: Dan Meyers/unsplash.com)

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An Indonesian schoolteacher is facing charges of sexually abusing an eight-year-old pupil after the girl's mother went against tradition and sought a nun's help to bring him to justice.

Robertus Hani, a teacher at a public elementary school in West Manggarai district of East Nusa Tenggara province, was being questioned by police on Nov. 7 after being arrested for allegedly abusing the girl over the last two years.

He is accused of forcing the girl, who was six years old when the abuse began, to perform sex acts on him and threatening to kill her if she told anyone about it.

The teacher’s arrest might not have come about had the girl’s mother listened to her family and the family of the accused, who she said put pressure on her to reach an out-of-court settlement.

She said the families wanted her to follow local custom in such cases and not go to the police so as not to bring shame on them.

However, the girl’s mother disagreed and sought the help of Sister Maria Yosephina Pahlawat of the Congregation of Servants of the Holy Spirit and the director of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission in West Flores.

“Deep in my heart, I want justice for my daughter, so I sought advice from Sister Yosephina,” the girl’s 40-year-old mother told ucanews.

The nun accompanied her and helped her lodge a criminal complaint with West Manggarai district police on Nov. 4.

"This is a serious crime which cannot be dealt with by local custom,” Sister Yosephina said.

Keeping such crimes hidden does not discourage people from repeating such crimes or others from committing them, she said.

Encouraging people to come forward is the answer to deal with sexual abuse as it punishes the abuser and raises greater awareness about the problem, she said.

Every month, she said, she receives reports of violence against children and that she was also currently dealing with the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl by a married man.

In the case of the teacher, the alleged victim’s mother said Hani had harassed her daughter, sexually assaulted her and forced her to commit sex acts many times.

The abuse came to light in September after one of the girl’s classmates caught the teacher molesting her and reported it to her mother.

"My daughter did not tell us anything because the abuser threatened to kill us and chop off her head if she told anyone,” she said. "I was devastated when I found out.” 

West Manggarai district police chief Julisa Kusumowardono said the girl’s mother did the right thing in coming forward and also criticized the tradition of silence. "There should be no reconciliation or attempts at negotiation," he said.

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