It is terrifying to note that regardless of how much we try to protect our children, it will never 100 percent safe for them. With harrowing stories of sexual abuse lurking amongst children, Firzana Redzuan promised that she will not rest as long as the social issue exist.
On a mission to protect our children
Firzana Redzuan, a 24-year-old law graduate who is also a youth advocate, and has been leading Monsters Among Us (MAU) since 2017. The organisation is a youth NGO that combats child sexual abuse (CSA) in Malaysia. MAU is meant to create platforms for the youth to advocate against sexual violence and patriarchy. She envisions building safer spaces for survivors and children where they can seek and offer help. With her legal training, she aspires to provide assistance to children and families in the near future.
According to Firzana, initially MAU was an organising committee for ‘Monsters Among Us: Child Predator Symposium’ in 2017. At the same time, the Parliament had passed the Sexual Offences Against Children Act 2017 thanks to the efforts of Datuk Sri Azalina Othman, the R.AGE team and their award-winning documentary ‘Predator In My Phone’, stakeholders, and also the public.
Nonetheless, symposium directors Firzana and Suhaila Sallahudin felt that the fight to end child sexual abuse was not over yet. “Even with Malaysia’s new laws and current prevention programmes, there are still a lot more to be done in changing how society understands and responds to CSA,” said Firzana.
Hence, the transformation of MAU into an organisation was in the hope of raising awareness and to build safer childhoods through youth-led initiatives. Despite celebrating the organisation’s third year anniversary last February, Firzana still has so much to do and say.
Aptly named ‘Monsters Among Us’ — Firzana explained that it symbolises the prevalent social issue happening globally which was, “These monsters are not strangers anymore, they are closest to you.” Despite being labelled as an ‘aggressive’ name, she further added that it was the spirit behind MAU. “We are young and we are angry and we want changes to be done right now. And we are not afraid to demand for what we want, not behind sweet names.”
MAU envisions a world where children are happy and safe from sexual abuse. Through the organisation, their mission is to pioneer youth involvement in combating child sexual abuse through advocacy, education, empowerment initiatives, and collaboration with relevant authorities and organisations within the youth’s capacity.
Among the initiatives MAU had taken are giving trainings and workshops on children’s rights and child sexual abuse. In terms of prevention and awareness, Firzana and the team had done numerous programmes including seminars and art nights dedicated for survivors.
“One initiative that has been ongoing is our online reading sessions. We started the sessions this year to encourage more people to have discourses on sexual reproductive health rights issues,” shared Firzana.
Apart from that, another initiative done by MAU is a monthly programme support group for sexual abuse survivors. Firzana disclosed that the programme is small-scaled but it is an intimate peer-facilitation support group with a volunteer counsellor to moderate the session.
The social issue that is also a taboo
Albeit being in the 21st century, backward thinking and taboos are still the epitome of this era. Just as Firzana mentioned, “Internalised patriarchy is virus because it not only breeds in men, but women as well,” she further elaborate that when devaluation of a person’s worth is based on gender, the presence of respect is gone. “And when that happens, you allow injustice and violence to happen to that person. Because, ‘who cares?’”
According to her, awareness is still much needed as survivors still find it hard to report, and they still want to remain anonymous when disclosing experiences, “Survivors still can’t sleep because mental health assistance is still secondary to everything else.”
Furthermore, with our deep-rooted culture, Firzana lamented that we are too fixated on the concept of purity that everyone wants to be a virgin, and to be seen as one. “When a girl is vocal, she is ‘asking’ for it. But when a boy demands for his rights, we’d say ‘atta boy’!”
But like any other bad experience, sexual abuse changes a person’s will and confidence, with the usual impact being trauma, grief and depression. “However, don’t miss out on those happy kids, they might be hiding their traumas behind those smiles and laughters.”
Hence, the first step to help prevent sexual abuse is to learn what sexual abuse is, Firzana added. “If an adult cannot differentiate between a safe and unsafe touch, or safe and unsafe secrets, that’s a sign for you to bring the child AWAY from the adult,” chide the exasperated Firzana.
How did MAU change her?
When asked, Firzana straight away answered that it made her an angry person. She further explained that she is constantly angry at the incompetence of the authorities, lack of willingness from the government, and also the ignorant and irresponsible teachers and parents.
However, the organisation had also changed her to be a more understanding person. “It’s never a single facet surface when we talk about child sexual abuse. I have become less judgemental on a person as I now know one was groomed by one’s past, and God knows what he or she went through.”
To understand MAU better, do check their social media out — on Twitter (@mau17_my), Instagram (@monstersamongus_my) or Facebook (Monsters Among Us). Or visit their intensive website at monstersamongusmy.weebly.com to learn more about the social issue.