PETALING JAYA - Parents should look out for specific behavioural changes if they suspect their children have been the victims of sexual assault or molest, says counselling psychologist Charis Wong.
"The child would either be acting out by being more sensitive or irritable, they could cry more. Alternatively they may become withdrawn and become reluctant to go out. Either way, it would be a marked difference from their usual personality," Wong told The Star Online on Wednesday.
She said parents could look for physical symptoms such as urinary incontinence or the sudden development of bed-wetting as other possible indications that their child has been sexually victimised.
"They could develop a sudden interest in their own private parts, of others, or start talking about it. You can also see them performing sexualised behaviour towards others," added Wong.
It was reported on Tuesday that a headmaster from a primary school in Taiping was being investigated by police after one of his students claimed he was "disturbed" by him on several occasions.
The student's allegation led to five more victims coming forward and their families lodged police reports against the headmaster on Sunday.
They are urging the district education department to suspend the headmaster while investigations are carried out.
Asked about dynamics similar to the alleged incidents in Perak, Wong said that older children might not speak out.
"They might get a sense that something is inappropriate, but they are not sure. The feeling of shame and uncertainty is there, especially if the predator is someone in authority.
"They feel uncertain because the person is supposed to look out for them. The headmaster is supposed to protect them in school - but if he is (allegedly) doing this instead, it can be confusing," she explained.
Meanwhile Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim urged parents to keep open lines of communication with their children, so they can detect if something is amiss.
"Something I have always done is to ask my children is how school was - and the way they answer is very telling," she said.
She said that if parents regularly speak with their children, they would be able to pick up signs that something is wrong.
"You should also make friends with your children's peers, and you should know their parents too as they can be a valuable source as to what is going on," said Noor Azimah.