The COVID-19 pandemic had changed many people’s lives over the past several months. Those who were already vulnerable, became more vulnerable. Those who already needed help, now need more. Those who were not protected, now need more protection.
Sepi (means Silent) is a 12-year-old girl from the city of Batam and Bintang (means Star) is a 13-years-old girl from the city Surabaya. Both girls live in a small home with their family with inadequate facilities for their education and sanitation in their neighbourhoods.
As the pandemic’s effect worsened and with the government restrictions that followed, many problems arose for them, especially for Bintang. Her parents did not have a steady source of income and relied on scavenging for food scraps.
For Sepi, the enforcement of social distancing forced her to stay and study at home, and live without a social life. She said, “I got bored at home, nothing to do. I cannot go out. I understand that it is because of the virus. But I do not know how to get rid of boredom at home”.
Due to their social and economic situations both before and during the pandemic, they have a high risks to sexual abuse.
To fulfill her boredom, Sepi spent more time online. Through social media, she met a man from her neighbourhood who groomed her and other girls to perform sexual acts. For Bintang, her eagerness to continue and improve her education was taken advantage of by her teacher. Both of the girl’s perpetrators used fear, humiliation, and money.
Through Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ partner organisations in Indonesia, these girls were identified through local authorities and community members, and provided them with support.
Yayasan Embun Pelangi (YEP) provided counselling to Sepi and her family, as well as provided educational assistance and access to health services. Psychologically, she needs to overcome the trauma and recover.
This assistance is important because Sepi and her family did not know what to do, particularly how to report it to authorities. The fact that the perpetrator lives in the same environment, affected them too. YEP managed to get them a psychologist, to strengthen them during the process. She said, “I am happy when sister Debo (the psychologist) comes. But sometimes I do not know what to tell, but just happy because it feels like I have a friend. She is kind, likes to chit chat, and brings me snacks also”.
Bintang received legal assistance and psychological support from Surabaya Children Crisis Center (SCCC) who accompanied her all through the process. In the beginning they did intensive home visits, and brought basic food and necessity, also provided her access to health examination. A psychologist went along with them to give her treatment.
This support was also given to her family. They were taught about Child Protection Law so that they knew about children's rights and the obligations of society to protect them.
Sepi and Bintang will never be the same but with the support that they are receiving, their hopes and dreams will be possible again. Both of them wish to continue their education and become doctors.
Sepi said, “I wish I could be a good doctor, helping other people, and making my mom and dad proud”.
“When I grow up, I want to be a doctor. I like studying, so I can reach my dream”, Bintang said.