Sexual abuse casts shadow over left-behind children

By Chen Xia
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 25, 2015
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Located in Lingwu City in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Xiushuiliang Village is just a half-hour drive away from the regional capital Yinchuan. It is not as poor and backward as many other villages in the Chinese hinterland. The exterior walls of many villagers' houses are covered with shiny ceramic tiles, which stand for dignity and affluence in rural China.

However, the village slipped into the shadows last year. It was discovered that 12 village girls, including 11 "left-behind" children, had been sexually abused by their teacher in the village kindergarten for more than a year.

"Left-behind" children refer to those children whose parents leave their children to stay with friends or relatives in villages while the parents seek work in cities far from home.

Due to a lack of parental care, the children are vulnerable to harm, and when they suffer harm, they are unwilling to tell the adults what has happened because of estrangement from their parents and guardians.

In Xiushuiliang Village, the sexual abuse might have remained unknown if there hadn't been a row between two girls. It was dusk one day in April last year. A villager overheard one girl shouting to another, "You kissed the teacher. He took off your trousers. I'll tell your mum that." That night, the villagers called the police.

On Jan. 9, 2015, the Yinchuan Intermediate People's Court held a hearing on the case. The 54-year-old kindergarten teacher Huang Zhenxin was accused of raping three girls in his office in the village kindergarten between February and April 2014 and molesting 12 girls in his office and on the playground in the village kindergarten during a period between 2013 and April 2014.

It was not until the police started the investigation that the victims' parents realized they had missed so many early signs.

One year before the appalling secret was uncovered, Tian Chao's daughter, who was among the 12 victims, began to repeatedly complain of pains in her private parts and refused to go to the kindergarten. However, Tian Chao only puffed body powder on her private parts and used snacks to lure her back to school. The other girls also made similar complaints, but none of their parents sensed anything wrong.

After the scandal, the parents started to ask themselves why the children didn't tell them what had happened. In addition to the fact that the suspect had used snacks, money and verbal threats to keep the girls quiet, the lack of parent-child communication and parental care also led to the tragedy.

In the case of Tian Chao, he and his wife left home to work in cities when their daughter was only six months old. Over the past eight years, the communication between the parents and the child was mostly over the phone. Last winter, when the couple returned home, the girl, who had turned six years old, would not respond when they tried to talk to her.

The situation is not rare in the village, as the majority of the middle-aged villagers are working outside. The trend started in 1996 when villagers found it became increasingly difficult to raise their family by doing farm work. Today, you can hardly find a young adult in the village of about 800 residents.

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