Escalator at Serangoon MRT station. (Screengrab from video of Anton V.)

23-yr-old suspect arrested over alleged molestation, victim questions protocols of MRT staff in response to her calls for help

A commuter, Ms Karmen Siew, posted on Facebook about a distressing incident that took place late on Thursday night, 13th September while she as on her way home.  After boarding the train at Punggol station around 11.20pm, the man sitting next to her brushed his hand against her thigh.

“I’m like ok. Maybe it was accidental. So I cross my right leg over my left to create space between us. He inches in and intentionally brushes against me. I squeeze my legs into the far corner of the seat, and he inches in and brushes against me again.”

After alighting at Serangoon MRT, Ms Siew recalled that this man followed her off the train and on to the escalator. “At this point I panic and think he’s gonna stalk me. I text a group chat for help. Next thing I know, I’m on the escalator and he gropes my butt”, she writes.

Ms Siew immediately yelled a profanity and started to run towards the control station. She pointed out the man who accosted her to the MRT officer at the station and called him out as a molester, hoping to elicit some help from the officer. Unfortunately, the molester tapped out of the station and walked away as the officer said he was unable to leave his station.

After voicing her frustrations at the inane policies that the SBS Transit staff are bound to (unable to close the gantry before the man tapped out or to leave his desk to stop the man), Ms Siew then describes in detail her experience in dealing with the MRT officer, a second officer that arrived a few minutes later and with the police. After speaking to the police over the phone at the Serangoon station, Ms Siew then headed to the nearest police station where she spoke to another officer about the incident and filed a report.

In the following days, the 28-year old posted a series of updates detailing the progress of filing a report with the police and the progress of the investigation.

On Sunday, 15th September, the police managed to identify and arrest the culprit. A 23-year-old suspect is said to be a student in National University of Singapore.

On her Facebook post, Ms Siew clarified that she is unable to comment on the details of the investigation but that the team behind it was “swift, efficient, and awesome.”

It’s reassuring to hear that the police were able to swiftly catch the man who committed this disgusting offense.

However, based on Ms Siew’s post, it’s clear that serious changes are needed to ensure that public transport staff is better equipped to handle such incidents.

In her post, Ms Siew says that the “MRT Guy 1 doesn’t chase. He says it’s protocol, since he is the only one at the control station and can’t abandon his post. Fine. Instead goes on the phone – I think he’s getting security – but no, he calls the police”. Surely there’s something more that the officer can do apart from simply calling the police,? How about calling security or closing off the gantry before the accused can tap out? And as Ms Siew said in her post, “Why else advertise that I should shout for help on the posters?”

Disturbingly, Ms Siew also mentioned in her updates that many people have reached out to her via the comments or privately that they too have experienced similar incidents but opted not to pursue their case further. Given the swiftness of the police in apprehending the culprit this time, one can only hope that it give others more confidence to come forward if something like this happens to them.

Ms Siew has shared that this is more about being her case and hopes that justice will be done and that people will come forward to help when they witness such incidents.

“I hope by speaking out that more will be done, that people will step forward in times of need,” she said and added, “Let this be a deterrent to those who intend to commit such crimes.”

(At this point, we’ll ignore the victim blaming that’s going on in the comments section of Ms Siew’s post because that’s a topic for another day. Quick tip: it’s not her fault, it doesn’t matter what she was wearing, and it’s not her fault for being too stunned to take a photo of the guy or punch him in the face. IT’S NOT HER FAULT).