When the Global Times contacted Zhang, she said she doesn't want to say too much about it, in fact, she said she is confused as to what has actually happened. She doesn't know what is going on in the investigation after the exposure.
In the view of Li Sipan, director of the Women Awakening Network, a women's rights NGO, the fact that these cases are revealed online shows something has gone wrong in real-life child welfare monitoring.
In her experience, many such victims or their close family and friends choose to expose incidents online only after they fail to receive help in real life, whether it's an inadequate police response or a lack of refuges and other aid.
Li Ying, director of the Beijing Yuanzhong Gender Development Center, told the Global Times that unpredictable things can happen during online rescues and that's why organizations don't recommend revealing abuse online.
"First, there's no way to tell whether the reports are real; second, it's difficult to establish trusting relationships with victims over the Internet; third, especially for children, online rescues might harm their privacy or cause other protection issues," she said. "That's why we recommend going through real-life channels, such as police, women's federations, etc."
Li Sipan has witnessed poorly-handled online rescues.
At the beginning of this year, a 17-year-old woman in Jiangxi Province called out for help online, saying she had been sexually abused by her father for four years. Her family forbade her from calling the police and she said she couldn't receive help from the local government. In desperation, she turned to the Internet.
Her experience was picked up by a netizen, who brought this to the attention of NGOs, including Li Sipan's, as well as the police and local women's federation. However, the netizen interfered too much, taking everything into their own hands, screening what the victim should reveal and telling the victim that Li Sipan belonged to a media organization.
The victim then grew wary and stopped contacting Li Sipan, just as the local women's group stepped in to offer help. In the end, the suspect was arrested by the police, but it created unnecessary drama and turmoil online. Furthermore, organizations like Li Sipan's lost contact with the victim and couldn't follow up on her condition afterwards.
A flawed system
In theory, reporting abuse offline is the best solution, but there are many deficiencies in the system, said Li Ying.
The Women Awakening Network's public account answered the Zhihu question "how to help girls when it is exposed online they have been sexual assaulted or sexually harassed?"
Their post quoted Li Xin, a worker at the charity and disaster relief office of the Guangzhou Bureau of Civil Affairs, as saying that government bureaus often don't communicate and cooperate with one another on child sexual abuse cases.
She said that once, when a minor reported being assaulted, the local police department couldn't find the kid's guardians and kept the victim in an office in a police station. However, this didn't help relieve the child's stress. In fact, the bureau of civil affairs has temporary sanctuaries designed for such situations, but the police had no idea.
The post concluded that there are major flaws in how child abuse is handled. No government department is taking the lead on this issue, and there are no clear guidelines on how inventions should be carried out on the grass-roots level. There's also a lack of child welfare monitoring and sex education courses.
"This is why many choose to expose these issues online and hope to pressure relevant departments into action and solving questions," Li Ying said. "I think that's a sad phenomenon."
Fang Gang, a Beijing-based sexologist, told the Global Times that every time something like this happens, people start talking about sexual harassment prevention education as if it can be a magic bullet.
"In order to enable children to say no, they need to have sex education classes that talk about their right to their bodies and help them with growth, not just classes that tell them to say 'no' to sexual harassment," he said.
Li Ying thinks in order to protect minors, the police, government, and legal departments must play an essential role, and organizations like Yuanzhong also need to play a role, such as helping to report cases, collect evidence and provide victims with legal, psychological support and companionship.
"But there's more that needs to be done. For example, the monitoring of underage kids, which often involves schools. There should be a complete system where it's mandatory for teachers to report such incidents," she said. "After reporting, there needs to be better case-handling from police and other government departments, such as reducing harm for the children. There needs to be training to instill that kind of mindset."