Fear, doubt, power, blackmail, shame and retribution get in the way.
There is a series of SPF advertisements reminding potential offenders of the penalties if they were caught molesting, littering and committing other crimes.
The molest ad was criticised by Aware for not referring to the harm done to the victim, and defended thereafter by SPF which intended the ads to serve as a deterrent.
I spoke to a lady who has encountered several acts of sexual abuse and assault in her life, to understand why she has not exposed the perpetrators of the crimes, and the one incident she failed to do so after summoning the courage to report to the police.
This is her point of view, that is sorely missing in the conversation.
1. How do I report a family friend?
When I was growing up, my family used to hang out with another family.
We took family trips together, my friends were the kids in the other family, and the adults were all in similar professional circles.
When I reached puberty and was in my early teens, there were several instances my friend’s father would find ‘innocent’ ways to get close and touch me, especially when my family went over his place for dinners.
At first I thought he was just clumsy or what. However there was one time he sat next to me on the couch, his entire thigh just gelled next to mine.
I pretended not to notice, and shifted away a bit so our thighs would not touch. Then he came and sat even closer to me! It was so creepy coz his daughter was just sitting on the other side of the couch oblivious to what her dad was doing to me.
The only thing I could do was stand up and walk away.
How could I report a family friend for a ‘harmless’ thing such as gelling his thigh next to mine?
When I was in my younger teens, I had short hair and wore aunty clothes, until some people mistook me for a maid. It was deliberate, to be ugly. So no one would want to touch me.
2. Groped at a foam party, was I asking for trouble?
When I was in my older teens, I followed some friends to a foam party in Sentosa. We wore swimsuits and jumped around when the soapy foam poured over us at intervals.
During one of these foam bursts where everyone would be covered in foam and no one could see anything, a guy grabbed me from behind, and put his hands inside my swimsuit, squeezing my right breast and fingering my vagina (yes I will use proper terms here, not baby talk).
I pushed him away and stumbled out of the foam. My friends who were next to me had no idea what happened. I couldn’t tell which guy groped me because the foam covered everyone.
3. Being lured into a flat by a big brother
Thankfully, I managed to avoid unwanted touches thereafter until I unsuspectingly found myself in a guy’s flat.
He was seen as a big brother in the gaming community as he worked in a popular LAN shop and had one of the top female snipers for a girlfriend. His flat also happened to be near my school.
One day, he texted me to go to his place after school as he had something at home to show me before he went to the shop. It was just a short walk away from school and I thought he wanted to show me something for his girlfriend that he needed some advice on.
Upon arriving at his place, he asked me to enter. His mum was there so I thought it was OK. Then he asked me to go into his room, so ok I thought maybe he doesn’t want his mum to see what he bought for his girlfriend in case she nags.
He closed the door, locked it, and pushed me on the bed, pulling my hand towards the bulge underneath his pants. I was so shocked I froze and was too scared to scream. He weighs at least 90 to 100kg, being over 1.8m tall and overweight. I was so scared he would kill me if I screamed.
So in the interest of self-preservation, I just lay there closing my eyes and being a statue, until he gave up and said I could go.
I refused to talk to him after that, nor hang out in the same LAN shop. With his status, he could easily spread rumours about me if I reported him, and I was scared of being knifed or physically attacked by one of his kakis. So I just let the whole thing die, instead of losing my life.
4. Being raped by my boyfriend
I wanted to keep my virginity until I was married, but one day when I least suspected it, my boyfriend raped me. I had specifically told him no sex until marriage, but he didn’t want to wait any longer so he forced himself into me from behind.
I was so upset about it, but he brushed off my anger and used emotional blackmail to keep me from doing anything nor even breaking up.
For people who don’t understand why idiots like me stay with assholes like him (until we wake up our idea), emotional blackmail is a very powerful tool used to keep victims in check.
We have been groomed to be submissive ‘good girlfriends’ who love their asshole boyfriends and forgive them no matter what, as we are expected to be a good example while they get away doing drugs and raping girls because they cannot control their urges, and males are seen as less mature than females. Excuses.
I’m really sick of sexual offenders being given discounts and needing to be treated like kids who don’t know better. Even kids know better.
It is because these assholes think they can appeal for a free pass, they can screw up the lives of their victims.
5. What’s the point of reporting a crime?
For the above cases, how could I have reported them as crimes? The only evidence is my word against people in power. Moreover their families, who are innocent, would be hurt and I didn’t want to hurt them.
So what about sexual crimes committed by strangers?
On the day Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away, the whole nation was in mourning. I took a bus to work, dressed in a black dress that extended below my knees.
My mind was full of memories of Mr Lee. My heart was full of sadness and grief.
And I was completely unprepared when a man behind me on the bus squeezed my buttocks three times. The bus was extremely packed, and it is normal for accidental touches, but this was 3 deliberate squeezes. It was so tight I couldn’t turn around, but I knew it was a man of a race (which I will not say) with curly hair, because I saw him as we were queuing up for the bus.
Should I have screamed or yelled? Everyone around me was in their own world, some faces were blank, some were stressed, some just sad.
I had no idea what to do, and suddenly everyone jostled to alight the bus as it had arrived at the bus stop.
I got off the bus completely confused, looking around for that man but he had disappeared in the crowd.
That day, I messaged the police and made an appointment to file a report, spending almost 2 hours with the police officer.
However even after checking the bus CCTV, the police couldn’t find the man and closed the case. The black dress held as evidence was returned to me.
Should I have screamed and made a scene? Would people believe me if I said he molested me if no one saw it?
And the victim also has to spend time making a police report, taking the perpetrator to court, unavoidably showing your face and name to the public, and dealing with nasty comments from people who say you’re so sensitive, making everyone busy over 3 stupid squeezes.
Why don’t more victims speak up
Just like the bus molest pales in comparison with the foam party molest, the big brother incident and rape, there are many other public molest victims who have been through much worse than molest.
Child rape, sexual assault, family violence, all these involve someone known to the victim. The stakes of a victim coming forward are much higher, as their family may be split by the revelation and the victim will likely be ostracised for being the cause of the family split.
So really, an ad alone by SPF, makes a stand, but doesn’t generate a conversation, nor create a space, where victims feel safe enough to spill the beans, and not be punished by more criticisms, doubt and retribution by the offender. We think we will feel more shame piled on by judgmental people and bear a heavier price and burden, than if we were to keep quiet.
Another reason why we keep quiet is because we are really nice and filial people. You see, if we keep quiet, family and social harmony is maintained. Only we need to suffer.
But if we drag up sexual assault and molest cases, more people suffer and are burdened by our sharing.
We feel it is selfish by affecting others and making trouble for everyone, just because we attempt to seek justice for the crimes that we have been stupid enough to be the victim for.
So, silent suffering is often seen as the better way for everyone, even if it is at our expense.
We bear the burden selflessly to protect other innocent people who will be affected when the perpetrator is called out and charged.
And that silent suffering often leads to suicide, self harm and mental issues.
So this whole molest issue, isn’t as straightforward as you think it is.
The perpetrators don’t have to worry about a 2 year sentence, because the victims have way too many hoops to jump through to put the offender in prison.