Singapore—In the wake of this year’s increased awareness of incidents of sexual assault in university campuses, four students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have formed a new group called Students for a Safer NUS that aims to keep students safe through ground-up initiatives.
Sexual assault burst into the national conversation in April of this year when NUS undergraduate Monica Baey took to social media to air her dissatisfaction with how the university handled the case of the fellow student who had filmed her while she was in the shower.
After Ms Baey’s Instagram post, universities endeavoured to change their policies regarding dealing with sexual misconduct, including consulting with students through different venues. After one such town hall, the four students who founded the new group made a choice to take action to generate greater community support for the victims of sexual assault on campus.
One of the founders of Students for a Safer NUS, June Loh, told TODAY. “Many of the students in the town hall blamed the administration for not stepping up. But I’m not sure if the students even know what to do (in the event of a sexual assault) as well.”
Ms Loh founded the group together with fellow NUS students Carissa Cheow, Luke Levy and Rayna Kway. Students for a Safer NUS announced its launching on November 25 via its Facebook page, inviting other students who wished to join their endeavours.
The group’s post read, “We are happy to launch Students for a Safer NUS, a student group dedicated to dealing with the issues of sexual misconduct faced by students within NUS. We aim to help the student community support survivors of sexual violence, understand the issue of sexual misconduct within campus and foster a more respectful and safer campus.”
In another post a few days later, the group announced the four main pillars that would uphold their efforts, which are:
- Support: through developing an effective peer-run network for community care and accountability
• Outreach: through making our shared resources for community support and literacy more accessible
• Research: through regularly reviewing our communities’ lived experiences through rigorous research
• Literacy: through building capacity across our student community to educate and support each other
On December 9, Students for a Safer NUS opened its doors for both current undergraduate and graduate students to sign up for its first committee. After signing up, students would be interviewed and given the opportunity to discuss how they would like to be involved in the group. NUS students may sign up for committee memberships until January 10 of next year.
By the following day, the group had received eight enrollments. The founding members told TODAY that its goal is to recruit 32 new members before launching its next steps next month. At this point, there are now 16 members including the four founders, from various courses and year levels.
On December 11, Students for a Safer NUS issued a statement decrying the frequency of sexual misconduct cases on campus, as well as through other channels such as the SG Nasi Lemak group, which shared obscene photos and videos of women to thousands of members.
“Students for a Safer NUS believes that this is symptomatic of sexual violence on a wider societal scale, and is intertwined with the cases that have been reported in local universities. We believe that education and literacy on sexual violence in Singapore are inadequate, and that it is essential for us to go beyond punitive measures and disciplinary sanctions in addressing these issues. This problem of sexual violence is not only endemic to Universities, but also other institutions, workplaces, and commercial spaces.
Such a hostile atmosphere is grossly alarming, and cannot be tolerated any further. Hence, we at Students for a Safer NUS intend, primarily, to provide an affirming support network for survivors and victims of sexual misconduct, and to enact structural change going beyond mere disciplinary measures across the NUS campus. We hope to heighten understanding of and sensitivity regarding issues of sexual consent and respect, beyond surface-level conceptions most students and members of staff currently hold.” -/TISG