Singapore’s leading women’s rights and gender equality group AWARE kicked off their Aim For Zero campaign last week with a hard-hitting video featuring 10 women courageously opening up about their sexual violence and harassment. Their stories give us a glimpse of some common experiences among sexual violence survivors: battling victim-blaming attitudes, unsympathetic employers who took no action, or parents who couldn’t fully understand their trauma.
The campaign is AWARE’s response to the outcries against sexual violence amplified by the global #metoo movement.
Aim for Zero was launched in conjunction with International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 26 Nov. The Guest-of-Honour for the opening event was Minister for Law and Home Affairs, Mr. K Shanmugam who has led the government's recent initiatives to strengthen the laws on sexual assault and improve survivors' access to justice.
“Whether you are a leader, a parent, an employer, or a student, you can take concrete steps to address sexual violence. We should press for collective action by keeping one another accountable, stepping up to diligently ensure the spaces we occupy are free from harassment and violence, and be supportive first-responders to those who have been assaulted or harassed,” said Corinna Lim, Executive Director of AWARE.
Said Minister Shanmugam, “The campaign video carries an important and powerful message. It takes courage and conviction for victims to come forward to tell their story. There will be zero tolerance for sexual assault, whether it is against women, men, children, or people of different sexual orientation.” He added that the CPC has been updated, and the Penal Code will be amended soon with new procedures being introduced to strengthen protection for victims as well as new laws to deter sexual assault.
One of the participants of the video, Ms Lim shared about her experience of workplace harassment. “Besides a handful of local cases on workplace and institutional harassment that received public attention, Singapore has been relatively less visible in the #metoo conversation. But that doesn’t mean we weren’t touched by it. Our Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) saw a 79% surge in cases at the end of 2017, when the #metoo movement took off. This proves that more support is needed, and concrete change needs to happen on every level - that’s what Aim for Zero plans to do.”
As part of Aim for Zero, AWARE wants to expand the outreach and capacity of SACC which is currently Singapore’s only one-stop support centre for survivors of sexual violence and harassment.
They also want to train more employers and workers on how to manage workplace harassment and implement strong anti-harassment policies and processes as well as conduct educational programmes and workshops for the public on consent, sexual violence and gender equality.
AWARE will introduce a new programme to encourage parents to have age-appropriate consent and sexuality education at home, while SACC will work with community groups and the public to run more first-responder workshops to improve the support survivors receive from the moment of disclosure.
Finally, AWARE will also carry out a survey on the prevalence of workplace harassment, and other forms of sexual violence in hopes that the research will contribute to national discourse on how to enhance legal protection and improve investigative processes for survivors.
Chanel, a survivor of sexual violence who shared her experience through the campaign video, said, “Patriarchy is toxic for everybody, from women to men, from the young to the old. Aim for Zero offers the right space to fight back, a space where important questions are asked and action is taken. Change needs to happen at home, in schools, in institutions, and in organisations.”
Another participant, Dawn, noted that for an issue such as this, zero is the only number worth aspiring towards to truly achieve respect and safety for every individual. So the Aim For Zero campaign is vital in ensuring that the #metoo conversation is kept alive while translating all the talk into necessary action and change.
Change is possible when everyone understands that it is the community’s collective responsibility to stand up and be heard, and this works on all levels – whether it’s by individuals having honest and open conversations or organisations adopting a strict anti-harassment stand coupled with establishing proper channels to report sexual misconduct safely.
Members of the public can show their support by donating to AWARE’s Aim For Zero fund and sharing the video on social media with the hashtag #AimforZero.