Dealing With An Almost Rape 

This is a submission piece written by Lynn Chia in response to the article 23-Year-Old Man Protects Lady From Harassment On Bus Despite Disabilities

I know. At this point, you’re probably wondering. Are we still going about this issue again?

After #MeToo, netizens flooded social media feeds with accounts of what had happened to them. Even Hollywood started the #Timesup hashtag, with everyone donning black at the Golden Globes as a sign of solidarity.

But is this enough?

Though we’ve garnered millions of conversations and dialogues across the globe, such issues still seem to be a taboo topic in conservative Singapore. In fact, even if we do talk about sexual harassment or assault, it seems to always end with a pitiable sigh, a gentle pat on the back, and an “I’m sorry that happened.

But is there more that we can do?

I was almost raped

When I was 18, I was almost raped by a trusted male friend. It happened barely a stone’s throw away from the school I was attending. Frozen in position, his hand was on my neck. From the corner of my eye, I could see a middle-aged lady with her young son.

I tried gesturing for help with my eyes. She caught a glimpse of what was happening and judged the situation to be inappropriate for her son, covered his eyes and left with a “tsk”.

Upon regaining composure, I ran to the nearest police station. When the officer on duty saw how ‘big-sized’ I was, he dismissed my case. “Are you sure or not?” he repeatedly asked me.

After a while, I simply gave up. I returned home and my heart sank. Why wouldn’t anyone believe me?

This article isn’t about putting down Singapore’s law enforcement system. Rather, it’s about highlighting how there are loopholes in the law.

What we need is an empowered and empathetic society which not only frowns upon but also deters sexual harassment and assault.

It’s not enough to deal with the existing symptomatic evidence of sexual harassment and assault. We need to change the ‘eye’ power/mind-your-business mentality the typical Singaporean subscribes to.

Silence resonates as clearly and loudly as actions

While public shaming may allow for a temporal gratification of the kaypoh netizen and social keyboard warriors, the loophole lies in the inability to help the victim at the time of need.

Instead of shaming the perpetrator, we should shift the spotlight to the victim, and make sure he/she is okay instead.

It isn’t about focusing on the ‘Other’ or polarizing ‘good’ versus ‘evil’ via public shaming. It is about recognising that all of us play roles at one point in our lives–whether as the victim, perpetrator or bystander.

Sometimes, we are the victim of male toxicity. Sometimes, we are the perpetrator of dismissing male rape. Sometimes, we are the bystander in witnessing sexually inappropriate jokes in our social circle.

If there is anything that we can and should do, it is to empower the bystanders to step up and recognise the power of their intervention.

Little acts of kindness and conscientiousness add up to encourage or discourage negative forms of behaviour.

Sometimes, we are afraid of embarrassment and fear of interpreting the situation wrongly. Sometimes, it’s simply inconvenient for us to intervene. Sometimes, we just don’t know how.

But would we react differently if we saw these potential victims as our family members or friends? If she was my sister or mother, or if he was my brother or father or cousin–would we hesitate?

If we are willing to see beyond outer appearance and withhold judgement, we could perhaps work toward a more progressive and gracious society.

At the end of the day, we aren’t that good or bad. But we can all try to be better.

About the author:
Lynn Chia is a part of The Standby Collective, a social communications campaign which aims to empower the bystander to see beyond present discomfort and public judgement and step up in situations of sexual harassment.

Cover image: Source