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Screen NPO Volunteers to prevent abuse!

A month ago, we talked about equipping non-profit organizations with the right people to ensure the safety conditions of their charges. We highlighted the need for stronger screening processes particularly of those working with the most vulnerable are not prone to misconduct, crime or abuse. In that same article, we also shared examples of volunteers and NPO staff abusing their power and noted that this issue has not generally reached our shores.

Unfortunately, Malaysians have been distressed by the recent news that an alleged predator has been disguising himself as a soup kitchen volunteer to groom underaged girls. The man in his 30s had been caught contacting and coaxing a 14-year-old girl to meet him alone. It was reported that he had been approaching young girls in churches and volunteer programs as early as 2003, drawing attention to the overlooked dangers in the community of activists. Cases like this certainly serve to bring up the dangers that could be lurking, even in seemingly safe communities such as soup kitchens, churches and volunteer programs.  

On the matter of grooming, Malaysia has definitely ramped up its laws surrounding sexual grooming by expanding the Sexual Offences Against Children Act in light of The Star’s R.AGE’s Predator in My Phone campaign. In 2016, The Star’s reporting highlighted how sexual predators spend weeks “grooming” young victims for exploitation through digital platforms. These sexual predators gain their trust and manipulate their feelings until they let their guards down, and that’s when the abuse starts. Grooming is conducted very discreetly and is extremely hard to detect. Also, during the time of the campaign, there was little to no action that could be enforced due to limitations in Malaysian laws surrounding the issue. Thankfully, because of the momentum by The Star R.AGE’s campaign, a bi-partisan initiative finally brought in new amendments to the law in 2017.

Thanks to these new amendments, the aforementioned soup kitchen volunteer is now being investigated under Section 12 of the Sexual Offences Against Children Act for child grooming, and if found guilty of such crimes, he could face a maximum five-year jail term and whipping.

However, is there anything that could be done before such issues are allowed to take place in the first place?

We invite you to reread our initial article on equipping non-profit organizations with the right people in October, to draw your own conclusions.

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