Mon, 08 Mar 1999

Experts say obscene calls the work of psychopaths

JAKARTA (JP): A noted psychiatrist and two psychologists, expressing shock and incredulity, have labeled as psychopaths those responsible for making obscene and threatening phone calls to about 60 junior high school students.

It is likely that one group of obscene phone callers targeted the students from two junior high schools, Indonesian Psychiatrists Association chairman Dadang Hawari and psychologists Gagan Hartana of the University of Indonesia and Joy Mangowal of Fenomena therapy counseling bureau concurred when contacted separately by The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Students told city authorities they were ordered by unidentified callers last month to mutilate their genitals and perform other dangerous sexual acts.

Orders were accompanied by the threat of demotion from their grade unless they complied, said Bahar Laut, head of the public order subdivision of the city's social and political affairs directorate.

Dadang said it was the first such case he knew of from his 29 years in practice.

"Such callers can be satisfied simply by hearing the screams or strained voices of young people breathing hard from stress."

Dadang was nonplused on identifying possible suspects.

"I think the callers have studied their victims well before making the calls," he said. "To me, the people know well what they're doing and who are their prey."

Bahar said callers always identified themselves as the students' teachers.

All of the 60 students from SMP 49 in East Jakarta and SMP 68 in South Jakarta suffered minor injuries to their genitals from following the threats. Schoolboys were told to tie rubber bands around their penises or put glue on their sexual organs. Girls were ordered to poke the outer parts of their vaginas with needles or pins, Bahar said.

Gagan said the culprits must have known the students well, probably on a personal level.

"What's definite is that the callers are psychopaths. Psychopaths may appear perfectly normal to the rest of the world, including their closest friends," said Gagan, who has worked for 18 years with troubled students.

He discounted the callers being from the schools and did not believe they were the students' teachers, parents of other students or their peers.

"What's strange here is that the caller knew which student would give in and do those dangerous sexual acts. They really got the right students who they could bully and in which way."

Joy worried the callers could be establishing a "syndicate" to force the young people to comply with their perverted sexual desires.

"What I mean by syndicate here is a gang of people who have a solid network across the capital... you see, those 60 students from the two schools are not necessarily the only victims."

Apart from giving due consideration to the "terrorization", Gagan recommended counseling for the students.

"The incident has obviously shocked the teenagers. Both teachers and parents must work on getting the students to try to return to their normal lives."

Separately, SMP 49 principal Sumartih said the victims, their parents, teachers and psychologists held a meeting a week ago.

She gave no details on the results of the meeting, but said the students were told not to obey the callers again.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education and Culture's director general of extracurricular activities and sports, Soedijarto, urged the police on Sunday to prioritize the handling of such cruel acts.

"The police must investigate this case thoroughly," Soedijarto said on the sidelines of a scouts' gathering at the Bumi Perkemahan Pramuka scouts camping ground in Cibubur, East Jakarta.

Soedijarto also urged both parents and children to immediately report any similar phone calls to the police.

"It's best if they jot down the time of the call and notify the police. The police must be ready to trace the callers from the homes of the victims as soon as possible," he said.

"Whatever the intentions of the callers, they are very cruel. It would also be good if the students could remember the voices of their callers." (ylt)