Singapore—Sexual harassment is real, and can have lasting effects on victims, especially when they are in an environment where they do not receive support.
One woman, identified only as Maria, told her story to The New Paper (TNP).
While at a social gathering wherein she was talking to a workmate, a male colleague groped her on the buttocks as he walked past her.
Stunned by this, she told TNP she froze as she tried to process what the man had done to her.
After telling some family members and friends, she filed a police report, and told the human resources department where she worked about the incident.
While this was the first time he had actually groped her, he had behaved in the past in a manner that made her and other women at the firm uncomfortable.
He had also made comments that were less than appropriate.
The firm then launched an investigation, which resulted in the man being given a warning.
Since others had actually seen the man grope Maria, she was surprised at the outcome.
According to her, the company said it was uncertain if what the man had done could be classified under molestation. But if he were to be found guilty in court, the company would take further action.
This left Maria feeling angry and perplexed.
She also felt that the firm failed to take what happened to her seriously.
After this, the man began to visit her work area more often, as well as stare at her.
But when she complained about it, she says the HR department did not do anything about it.
She then resigned from her job, feeling that the firm had let her down in addressing her complaint, and because she no longer felt safe.
Maria is quoted as saying, “I felt deeply let down, patronised and gaslighted.”
However, she has had lingering effects from the incident.
”Since then, I have experienced anxiety whenever a man comes uncomfortably close to me – strangers in particular.
I have had recurrent nightmares regarding the incident to this day. This entire ordeal has been extremely draining mentally and emotionally.”
Experts that TNP spoke to, including those from the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), a gender equality organisation, have said that the company could have and should have done more to protect Maria.
Workplace sexual harassment has been in the news of late, especially with the news last weekend that former Nominated Member of Parliament Viswa Sadasivan had made a sexual remark to comedian Sharul Channa just before an online interview started.
Ms Channa took to social media to write about the incident, as well as to highlight the workplace harassment that many women face.
“All women deserve a safe professional environment,” wrote Ms Channa.
Another woman, Ms Kiran Kandade, commented on her post that she too had been a victim of Mr Viswa’s inappropriate sexual remarks.
AWARE commended the two women for speaking up, writing, “It’s not easy to speak up on the spot. Often, the harassment happens quickly, and the recipient is taken aback, unsure about what they heard or so offended that they are at a loss for words. The recent AWARE-Ipsos survey on workplace sexual harassment showed that only 3 of 10 victims reported their case. Of those who didn’t report, many just wanted to forget about it, or believed they didn’t have enough evidence.”
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