KUCHING: Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah has commended national diving queen Datuk Pandelela Rinong Pamg for speaking out about being bullied by a former coach after she had called him out for making lewd jokes.
“I want to say thank you and congratulations to Datuk Pandelela,” said the state Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister.
“Since she is someone who we consider as an influencer in the community, when she speaks out about such things that not many people want to talk about, it has an impact.”
Fatimah said this in response to a question at a press conference following a presentation ceremony of citizenship application result letters here on Friday (Oct 22).
She pointed out that there were cases of bullying and sexual abuse experienced by athletes and students, but not many people were willing to report such incidences as it was a difficult process for victims due to various reasons.
“For victims – whether of bullying or sexual harassment or abuse – it is not easy because this matter is still viewed in our community as something which cannot be discussed openly.”
In addition, Fatimah said that oftentimes when victims made a report, they were further victimised instead of getting much needed support and assistance. She said people, sometimes even those close to the individual, may not believe them or may even blame or ridicule them.
“Instead of the incident being the perpetrator’s fault, it becomes the victim’s fault.
“If they report the incident to the police, the process is very long and they may have to undergo questions after questions. And for the victim to recall the traumatic experience, it can be embarrassing for them. It is certainly not easy.”
Nevertheless, she urged victims of bullying or sexual harassment to speak out about their experience, explaining that the police would not be able to bring the perpetrator to court if no report is made.
She also stressed the importance of creating awareness among the community so people would be more aware of the long-lasting pain and emotional trauma that victims have to bear.
“We have to educate the public to understand and to be more empathetic to the victim, not the perpetrator. In this way, we hope more victims will come forward, make a report, and stop these perpetrators.”
She said children must be educated on their rights and on what they should do if they were in such a predicament, including who they could talk to.
“Parents also have to be aware of any changes in their children’s behaviour – for instance, if they suddenly are very silent or angry or if they suddenly stay in their room a lot.”
On top of this, she said support must be made available for victims, adding that this support must be child-friendly so that children involved do not feel threatened.