Sexual Harassment In Singapore
Sexual harassment and assault can happen to anyone. It can occur anywhere, anytime and you don’t have to be dressed like you’re ‘asking for it’.
In light of the allegations against famed Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein, the hashtag #metoo was created to give a sense of scale to the sexual harassment and assault women face.
Taking a stand and speaking out against these inappropriate behaviours, the ZULA team has decided to share our stories of being stalked to being groped in public, to raise awareness and say: sexual harassment is not okay.
Kimberly: “I was molested on the bus.”
The first time I was molested, I was 13. It happened on the last row of bus 170 on my commute between Johor Bahru and Singapore.
When I felt my uniform riding up my right thigh, I didn’t think much of it. I thought the bumpy bus had shifted my skirt so I shrugged it off and went back to sleep. But it happened again and I felt cold fingers brush my skin.
I saw a man looking at me through the window’s reflection and scooted over to my classmate, praying feverently the bus uncle would drive faster.
The harassment didn’t stop there. The creep began to gauge my arrival time at the customs every morning and followed me closely for six months. My friend tried to ‘protect’ me, but one day, he was absent from school and I ended up alone with the creep again.
This time, he positioned himself to stand in front of my seat. Every time passengers boarded the bus, he’d lean forward and press his crotch into my face. It got to the point where I could feel his jeans on my cheek.
The stranger next to me noticed and said in Malay, “Stop it lah, she’s just a girl”, to which he replied, “But she’s pretty, no?”
They laughed it off and started talking about their jobs while I chewed hard on my lip to stop myself from crying.
I don’t remember much of what happened after but I know that was the last time I saw the man because my parents moved to Singapore for good.
Looking back, I wonder why I didn’t think to scream for help. Was I scared no one would believe me? Or did I accept harassment as a ‘thing’ all girls go through?
Since then, I’ve realised how important it is to seek help when something doesn’t seem right. All you need is five seconds of courage to speak up, and you could potentially save another girl from experiencing the same harassment.
Leah: “They asked me to send nudes.”
Growing up, I often used online gaming platforms as a way to meet new friends. As naive as a 12-year-old, I didn’t think it a problem to give my number out to internet strangers.
After awhile, these ‘friends’ began harassing me for nude photos. When I refused, they said I was “no fun” and refused to play the online games with me.
The most disgusting part of the whole experience was these boys were only a year or two older than I was, and I was probably not the first girl they’ve bullied.
I stopped talking to them as I didn’t approve of how they were coercing their female friends into sending them racy images.
You don’t have to tolerate comments which makes you uncomfortable. If someone is sexually harassing you, just shut them down and say “BYE!”.
Chevonne: “A guy masturbated behind me in Bus 93.”
When I was a teenager, I boarded bus 93 with my sister at the Harbourfront interchange. We sat at the back of the bus, and it wasn’t long before another man took the seats on our left, one row behind us.
Halfway through the journey, my sister nudged me and pointed to her left. Turns out, that man had whipped out his ‘little brother’ and was masturbating furiously.
But instead of shrieking “OMG” or “so small!” (okay, kidding), we gave him the most nonchalant expression before continuing our conversation.
The next stop, he quickly zipped up his pants and stormed off with a look of disdain.
I once read how flashers often do it for the ‘thrill’; the more ‘excited’ the girl is, the better. So when we had no Fs to give, it could’ve turned him off.
Chevonne: “I caught him peeking.”
When I was 12 years old, a Secondary student approached me while I was walking home. He asked me, “Where do you live? Where do you study?”
Trusting my gut instincts, I decided to throw him off by pointing to a random direction and replied, “somewhere there”. I then quickened my pace, and walked away from him.
However, when I was 20m ahead, I turned around and caught him peeking at me from behind the pillar. So I detoured and and sat on the steps of another house till I was sure he was gone.
Tip: My mum always warns me about guys who stalk girls with a fixed routine (e.g. jogging at the same place, at the same time) and that you shouldn’t listen to music so loud that you can’t hear footsteps behind you, especially in deserted areas.
Keeping her advice in mind, I always make it a point to know what’s going on around me.
Chevonne: “An acquaintance almost got raped.”
Early last year, I heard of an acquaintance who was nearly raped at her HDB block near Jurong. A man had entered the same lift as her, and when she alighted, he pounced on her from the back and attempted to pull down her pants.
Thankfully, her unit was near the lift, and her family was home that day. So when she screamed for help, her father rushed out, and the perpetrator ran away.
Though she survived this harrowing incident, it’s a reminder not to take Singapore’s safety for granted. Even if you’re entering the lift with someone else, try to stand behind with your back against the wall so you’ll be able to be more aware of your surroundings.
Cheryl: “I always got groped at clubs.”
At 19, I used to go out clubbing a lot. I’ve been pawed at by drunken men so much I’d expect to be groped every time I went out.
Once, I went out partying with a large group to celebrate a friend’s birthday and wore a swishy dress. I was having a good time until someone decided to put his hand under my dress.
A hand cupped my entire right butt cheek and gave it an extremely firm squeeze. Before I could turn around and punch the guy in the face, he was gone.
Another time, a guy tried to grind his erect penis against my back, despite me repeatedly shoving him away. He only backed off when I yelled at him and threatened to call security.
I think it’s kind of sad I was one of those girls who felt being touched inappropriately was part and parcel of Singapore’s nightlife.
Harassment is never acceptable in any setting and as much as possible, confront them and don’t let people bully you!
And if you want to dress sexy in a club, a really tight faux leather skirt is your best bet for not getting molested. (The material and cut makes it almost impossible for people to put their hand up your skirt or grab your ass.)
Dealing With Sexual Harassment
As a woman, it’s easy to feel intimidated when a man physically stronger than you behaves inappropriately.
But your voice is stronger than you think, use it to show them you’re unafraid and not someone to be messed with. And if you something bad has happened to you, you don’t have to keep silent.