On Thursday, January 10, a Singaporean man pleaded guilty in the High Court to three counts of aggravated sexual assault by penetration. Aggravated molestation, along with six additional charges, are still being considered for sentencing. The 58-year-old man, who was a “father figure” to his friend’s young daughters, had been sexually assaulting the girls over a duration of four years.
The unemployed man, who was living in Malaysia, travelled to Singapore often to do odd jobs. He was between 51 and 55 years old when he sexually assaulted the two girls, who are the daughters of a long-time friend, in their bedroom and in his car.
He and the father of the girls had been close friends for about 20 years, meeting up often to talk and share stories about their lives. They were such good friends that the girls’ father even asked him to watch over his family while he (the father) was in prison.
The man, whose name cannot be revealed as there is a gag order in place for the protection of the victims’ identities, began spending the weekends at his friend’s flat after he divorced his wife in 2011.
The girls, who were still children, looked up to him as a father figure, sort of like a second dad. They even called him “bapak”, which is “father” in Malay. He was fond of them, talking closely with them and buying them presents, and the girls felt safe with him, the older one even confiding in him about her problems.
It was found out that he slept on a mattress between the girls in their bedroom, something that the girls’ father was comfortable with.
The sexual abuse began in 2011. He first started abusing the older girl, who was then nine years old. It started out with him telling her to kiss him on the lips and then escalated to him telling her to perform different sex acts on him, all while her younger sister was sleeping beside them in their bedroom.
In 2013, he began to sexually assault the younger girl as well. By that time, she was also around nine or 10 years old. He drove to a multi-storey car park and went to the top floor, where there were no other cars or people around. It was there, in his car, where he assaulted her sexually.
He then blackmailed the girl into keeping silent about what he did, saying that he would no longer be allowed to visit their family if she told people what happened. She agreed because she looked up to him as a father figure and did not want him to stop seeing them.
In the first five months of 2015, after she was again sexually assaulted by the man, the older daughter, who was then in Secondary 2, went to her parents and told them what happened, but they did not do anything because they apparently did not understand what she was saying to them.
She tried to alert someone again later that year, this time going to her boyfriend and telling him what the man had done to her. This was after she sat through a science lecture in school where sexual offences involving victims under 16 years old were discussed. She did not want to go to the police because she was afraid that the man, who she and her sister had come to see as a second father, would be punished.
In 2017, the older daughter struggled with suicidal thoughts and tendencies. She was placed in Pertapis Centre for Women and Girls to receive care and therapy. It was only then, during a session with her child protection officer from the Ministry of Social and Family Development, that she finally spoke of the sexual abuse that she had endured. A police report was immediately filed against the man.
By law, aggravated sexual assault by penetration can be punished by eight to 20 years in prison, as well as at least 12 strokes of the cane.
In the man’s case, Deputy Public Prosecutors Chew Xin Ying and Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz sought 23 years’ jail time, along with one year’s imprisonment. This is instead of the maximum 24 strokes of the cane because, being older than 50 years old, the man cannot legally be caned.
According to another online source, the prosecution called the sexual offences “exacerbated and prolonged” and said that the man had “blatantly and relentlessly abused” the trust of the family – of his long-time friend and his two daughters.
After the man said in court that “something was growing in his head”, Judicial Commissioner Pang Khang Chau postponed the sentencing to a later date.