A self-professed social media hermit, Amanda Lai posted her frustration on the incident that happened to her work colleague on her Facebook on 8 Feb, stating her disappointment on the police officer who took her colleague’s statement when she filed a report of the harassment.
According to Ms Lai, her colleagues were celebrating her office CNY at Mouth Restaurant on Cross Street which she regretly didn’t attend. When the dinner was winding down, two of her female colleagues, initialled T and R, walked out to use the building’s restroom at about 9.30 PM.
The restroom is approximately 20 m away from the restaurant’s main entrance, which faces the main road. As they were coming out of the restroom and walking back to the restaurant, the corridor was blocked by two men.
The men announced that they were from Portugal and after trying to guess T and R’s country of origin, they blocked T and R’s way back to the restaurant. One of the two men then began to harass T and asked her to take her shirt off and show him her breast. T said ‘NO’ repeatedly, and instead of backing off, the man moved towards her, picked her up off the floor and molested her.
According to Ms Lai’s account, T only stopped his action when R grabbed onto T’s hand and screamed. The women hurried back to the restaurant and then their friends confronted the two men and tried to block them from leaving, resulting in a struggle. The men’s colleagues then came out of the restaurant and pulled everyone apart, but the molester charged forward and headbutted one of Ms Lai’s male colleagues.
The Portuguese’s colleagues brushed off the incident with just a “Oh, we thought they were friends,” When confronted about what happened.
Ms Lai wrote: “Sure, when you see a woman struggling when being manhandled by a guy, you automatically think that they are friends, and that this is normal behavior among friends,” stating the lack of common sense of those people.
She admitted fairly that the molester’s colleagues did apologize, but other than give her the molester’s name, ‘Bruno’, and that he was visiting from Portugal, they refused to give their company name or any other contact information. They even told Bruno to leave immediately.
Ms Lai’s colleagues approached the restaurant for the contact of the company, but it said that they would only disclose the company’s name to the police.
So the next day T filed a police report. Amazingly, she had to endure an unpleasant interview by the police officer, who started the interview by saying, “Are you sure you want to do this? If this goes to court, you’ll need to testify..”.
Lai wrote that the officer concluded with, “Are you sure they weren’t just trying to be friendly? You know, Ang Moh culture is different from ours..”
Ms Lai wrote, “..I’m most disappointed by the fact that the police officer who took my colleague’s statement, didn’t take her complaint seriously. I worry that they will do nothing.”
Von Yap, a netizen, commented on Ms Lai Facebook: I had the same treatment from our police when I was molested by a visiting lecturer from Australia. The female officer asked me “Are you sure? He can never come back into Singapore once he’s convicted.” So no. I don’t and will never trust the police. They look out for foreigners more than us.
Another netizen, Liew Wong Huat commented: “The response of the police is no surprise to me. I have experience their in responsible behaviour and attitude before shame on them.”
And another, Lee CoCo, gave an advice: “Go to cantonment police station to seek help from an IO. Being molested ain’t a small issue that any woman should let it go. Police would be able to conduct a proper investigation and go to the restaurant to retrieve CCTV, if any. Be strong to fight on the case!”
Sexual harassment is still somewhat rampant in Singapore despite gradual improvement in women rights and social consciousness, as reported by the news media. Some of the latest reports could be read here and here.
The Association of Woman for Action and Research (AWARE) has a support service for survivors of sexual assault in Singapore, the Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC), comprising a dedicated Helpline, counselling, legal counselling and Befriending services.
The SACC Helpline 6779 0282 runs on weekdays from 10am to midnight. It can also also be reach by email at [email protected] for assistance.
TOC has written to the Police for comments on this incident.