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Singapore needs a better recourse for dealing with sexual assault

In Singapore 7 out of 10 victims do not report sexual harassment at all as they fear that their story will ring false

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Singapore—As more sexual assault cases are being reported, many Singaporeans (41 percent) still believe that false accusations of sexual harassment are a larger problem than acts of assault that go unreported, according to a survey carried out by Ipsos earlier this year.

In contrast to this, in the United States, a survey conducted by the University of California, San Diego, showed that less than 10 percent of those surveyed had any doubts that when people make allegations of sexual misconduct, they’re deliberately telling a falsehood.

Ironically, the Ipsos survey reported that almost three out of every 10 Singaporeans have been, or is acquainted with someone who has been, sexually harassed. In fact, nearly a third of all the female respondents cited sexual harassment (31%) and physical violence (19%) as two of the top three most significant issues that they face.

And even more surprisingly, the actual number of reported cases of sexual harassment that were proved to be false is actually very small. The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), which provides critical support services for women in Singapore, said that the group has only seen one or two cases of what could be false reporting, with the person who made the false report having been put under duress by a parent or partner.

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AWARE has received almost 2,000 reports of sexual harassment in the last five years.

Corinna Lim, AWARE’s director, told The Straits Times (ST) in March, just after the results of the Ipsos survey came out, that around the world, between only two to 10 percent of reports are believed to be false.

She told ST, “Ipsos’ survey findings are certainly worrisome for anyone invested in gender equality in Singapore… Our work at Aware indicates to us how misguided and harmful that belief is.”

Ms Lim also said that in Singapore 7 out of every 10 victims do not report sexual harassment at all. The reason: they are afraid of not being believed.

Another finding from the Ipsos study is that 45 percent of responders said that if women were wearing revealing clothing, they should not complain if men made remarks concerning their looks.

In October, the difference between how Hong Kong and Singapore handled complaints of sexual harassment was reported in a South China Morning Post (SCMP) story, wherein an athlete in Hong Kong who named the coach who had sexually abused her when she was younger, received widespread support and even praise from the public. Even Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s leader, stepped in to make sure the young woman got justice.

On the other hand, when a Singaporean hurdler by the name of Kerstin Ong reported the behaviour of her coach to Singapore Athletics, not only was little done to help her, she ended up being called an “attention seeker” and was made a pariah by her fellow athletes, even by those who had had previously voiced similar complaints against the coach.

In an even more high-profile case, another coach named Loh Chan Pew was accused of molesting two female athletes, he also said that’s accuser was merely an “attention seeker.”

Mr Loh, who is presently on trial for the use of criminal force against one of the two young women, was the vice president of Singapore Athletics Federation till September 2018./ TISG

Read related: #MeToo trends in Singapore as police report 20% jump in molestation cases so far in 2017

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