“I inherited a world that did not make me feel very safe, did not make me feel fully empowered as a female, did not make me feel that i have a voice,” said Debra Teng, actress and also the producer of Under The Carpet: #metoo.
We all understand that sexual harassment, crime and violence is common. What we do not understand is how common it is.
Surprisingly, Singapore does not have statistics on unreported instances of sexual harassment, crime and violence. Debra reveals that she was asked by government agencies to look for private sponsors as they “did not have budget” to accommodate such studies.
These figures are crucial to helping us tackle a problem that has been plaguing humanity since time immemorial.
Once at my office, we were talking about the topic of molest. 5 out of the 5 girls present at the discussion all revealed that they have been a victim, but did not go to the police.
It was shocking to me as a male person hearing this. One would have thought that outrage of modesty was a serious crime and that it would take a lot for someone to commit such an offence.
Why do girls not make this a police case?
“You must understand that oftentimes, the perpetrator is close friend, relative, colleague or even a boss.”
“Sometimes the victim is unsure and confused, not so much that she doesn’t know the act was wrong, but because there is a general sense of powerlessness.”
Sometimes the act may not seem like an issue of abuse, but it is. These include:
- Making her watch pornography against her will
- Threatening her with a weapon
- Making degrading comments about her body or behaviour
- Preventing her from leaving the house
- Destroying her possessions
- Threatening to kill her children
- Threatening to commit suicide
- Not contributing money to the household
- Denying her a right to work
- Stalking her
These are all acts that may be criminal or at least warrant police intervention. However sometimes victims find it harder to take action and prefer to leave it be.
And just like that, they keep quiet. No one else other than victim and assailant knew it happened.
I observe that when the police conduct educational and awareness talks in schools, the advice is usually directed at girls. They tell the girls what no to do to prevent themselves falling victim to sexual crimes.
It is as though if the girls were to let their guard down, they cannot blame the males for behaving badly. It seems like it is the girl’s responsibility alone to try to not get themselves raped or assaulted.
I get the sense that a lot of men do not understand the scale of these problems.
“You’re not the only male that finds this data surprising, that is the reason why we need to step-up and talk about it and to learn more about it.”
Foreign statistics tell us that 3 out of 4 sexual assault cases go unreported. But we don’t know how prevalent it is here. We do not know where it occurs, which demographic is most affected, we do not know how often or what kinds of acts are being attempted.
What we do know are crimes that have been reported, but that is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Debra produces Under The Carpet: an internet based show exploring topics that affect people deeply yet are difficult to talk about. You may view their show on their YouTube Channel: Manta Pictures, and follow them on Facebook at tinyurl.com/underthecarpetsg