Taura Edgar spoke at TEDxTinHauWomen covering her and the team’s research and advocacy work at TALK Hong Kong.
Taura has recently published a groundbreaking report on what we do and don’t know about child sexual abuse in Hong Kong. She shares how data, research, and coordinated systems can help us identify and stop the harm to our children. The figures in TALK Hong Kong’s report represent a tragedy for children in Hong Kong and an opportunity for each of us – from guardians to educators, from employers to colleagues – to do something to end this public health crisis.
Taura Edgar moved to Hong Kong to live and work back in 1998. She is a B2B digital marketer by day but has found a passion that puts to use her difficult start in life. Taura draws deeply from her own experience founding TALK Hong Kong in 2019; a peer support group for survivors of child sexual abuse. Her work with a community of survivors in Hong Kong has given her unique insights into the cause, scale, and impact of this issue, and forms the foundation of her prevention endeavors. As she began speaking in public forums, it became clear that there wasn’t much research or public data available in Hong Kong. She has set out to bring awareness of the situation and present an opportunity for each of us – from guardians to educators, from employers to colleagues – to end this public health crisis. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
You and I need to deal with something here today.
If I told you there was a preventable disease that effected more than 10% of kids. A disease so malignant that it affects brain development, breaks immune systems, and shortens lives.
You’d probably think that doctors, teachers, parents, and government officials were working on it 24 hrs a day because that is what you do in a public health crisis.
But they’re not.
Because we don’t know about it. And we’re not asking about it.
We’re going to get into some tough stuff. And yes, I’m probably going to sound outraged the whole time! I’m going to talk about protecting kids and what we can do with data.
My name is Taura and I am the founder of TALK Hong Kong. We provide support for survivors of child sexual abuse and advocate prevention.
Our research estimates 12% of kids in Hong Kong suffer from some form of sexual abuse before they’re 18.
And we estimate it’s 96% unreported!
That means in this room of a 1000 people, there are probably 120 of us survivors.
That means that you know many people who have been abused. That even means you probably know an abuser.
That’s hard to think about. I know it is.
But we have to think about. Because we can’t just keep asking kids to protect themselves which is about the only thing we do.
I want to tell you a little about my story.
I am an incest survivor. My father raped me from age 10 to 14.
When I ran away from home at 16, I closed that door and I never looked through it again.
Until my mid-40s. And we’ll get to that later.
Did I tell anyone back then?
No, I didn’t.
I stayed silent.
Parents think they would know.
They often don’t.
Why didn’t I tell? Because my father told me that’s what love is. Love is the thing children want most. And removing it is a powerful threat.
I’m telling you my story because I want you to know it’s a really common story.
A story I’ve heard over and over again from women who turn up at our support group.
OK so it’s way more common than you thought. But check this out:
- Social Welfare records only about 300 cases of sexual abuse a year, not many in a city our size.
- Last year the Police recorded one single case of incest
It’s hard to tell someone. It often takes years to tell friends let alone the police.
And that’s why you and I have to make it a public conversation.
So back to my mid-40s! I was feeling strong for the first time in my life.
I wanted to do something to stop others being abused.
After running the support group for survivors for a year, my team and I started to do some legal reform advocacy.
And we saw a repeating problem that just didn’t make sense to us.
What we should know
So we have this public health crisis that’s effecting 12% of kids. If we’re going to prevent it, what should we be doing?
The reasonable thing is that we should be figuring out who is vulnerable and making specific plans to stop it.
That means we should know the basic things right?
We should be able to tell who it happens to, how old they were, who does it, where they do it.
These stats here aren’t from Hong Kong, they’re from the CSA Centre in the UK.
We don’t have a lot of that information here. We don’t track it.
It doesn’t mean it happens less here. I means you don’t know it.
There are no dashboards that show us trends over time. We can’t analyse what’s going on and see key indicators that would help us identify and prevent child sexual abuse.
The departments involved only collect limited data and don’t even use the same categories of abuse – or even if a child means under 17 or under 16!
My goal is to change that.
TALK HK’s first ever report takes the data out there and shows as much detail as we can about child sexual abuse in Hong Kong.
We worked with HKU law school lawyers and a prevalence expert and reviewed official data from the last 10 years.
Here’s some of what we do know…
- We estimate 12% of children in Hong Kong have been sexually abused
- Similar to places like Australia, UK, US
- We also estimate that 96% of that abuse goes unreported
- Imagine this circle is the cases we know about, the rest of this room are the ones we don’t know about!
- 72% of children in reported child sexual abuse cases knew their abuser
We also know this is a gendered crime
- 85% of known victims were girls
- 93% of known perpetrators were boys and men
There’s a lot of stuff we can’t tell you. That’s because…
- There are huge gaps in data – here’s a simple example…
- Police and Dept of Justice don’t record the gender of the victim
- Dept of Justice doesn’t record the age of the victim, they could be 13 or 33
- Many depts. that are involved with child abuse cases don’t have data available: Hospital Authority, Education Bureau, Correctional Services Dept
What that means
What does it mean that this stuff is missing?
It means we can’t look at what happens with cases that do enter the system and learn from them.
Mainly, it means we don’t know who is vulnerable. It means we can’t say girls 8-10 in TST are more vulnerable at home. And that’s the kind of precision we need to prevent abuse.
It means these kids will likely face:
- Chronic health problems
- Mental illness
- Substance dependence
- Shorter life spans
And that is the long lasting tragedy of complex PTSD that goes far beyond the abuse itself.
In Hong Kong we need what the CSA Centre UK does. The data and programmes they provide help departments and prevention professionals make the policy decisions and plans that will stop children being abused.
What you can do
While we are strengthening our systems to protect children, here’s what you can do today.
- If you are a parent, ask every organization that has contact with your child – that’s schools, tutors, coaches, drs offices, community centres – what their child safeguarding plan is. Not just what they are teaching kids but how they are managing adults in their orgs.
- Read the report! I wish I could give a long list of HK research to look at but there simply isn’t.
- Get trained on how to interrupt and prevent child abuse – there are great online courses available.
- Never force affection on a child, they do not owe you a hug. Even on holidays.
- Tell 5 people what you learned here. That’s how the conversation starts!
Thank you for being here and listening to this tough topic. It’s been mind blowing for me to be here!
I’ll leave you with one final question…
Who does silence help?