During this election period, The Online Citizen has created a new editorial series called Welcome to The New A(GE), where we hear from ethnic minority Singaporeans about living in Singapore. Through relating their lived experiences, we hope to reveal what they need, and what needs to change in our society.
In the first instalment, we hear from a female Singaporean, 22, who is a recent graduate in Psychology.
I have experienced the police system and justice system in Singapore, from what I have seen and heard for myself and from victims, the police is not sensitized towards the plight of victims of sexual crimes.
They do not know how to deal with rape victims, how not to victim blame, how to not ask inappropriate questions and so on.
And because the police fails to be sensitive, organisations such as AWARE, Ministry of Social and Family have stepped up to do their part with providing support and training. A woman from the Befriender Program at AWARE went with me to the police station to make sure the police officers stayed in check, that they did not victim blame me or say anything hurtful that would have upset me more.
Yet, my investigating officer told me, “We’re not saying he’s not guilty; what we’re saying is we can’t let this go to court for many reasons” as I would just end up being victim-blamed and it wouldn’t have worked in my favour.
So even the police are conscious that our system does not protect victims.
From my experience, as well as that of many other girls’, the only way they handle rape, sexual assault or abuse cases is “where’s your evidence?”
Like, “where’s the bruise”, or “where’s the video recording”, “where’s the voice memo of you saying ‘no’ the night you were raped.”
No woman, man or child is waiting to be assaulted. So nobody has that kind of evidence. This is why 90% of perpetrators go free.
There are a lot of flaws in the way our system is run. Primarily, we need to make policy changes regarding how we handle rape cases.
When I was working in a trauma care unit , I noticed that some of the girls would recant their accusations, because, let’s say they were raped by their stepfathers, and their mothers do not believe them, and so victims who go through with their accusations will be breaking up their families. They would put their families first and not charge their assailants. Often time, the girls would still be receiving text messages from their abusers, trying to convince them not to go through with it.
My point is, we need a better system that properly takes care of victims, not perpetrators.
Right now, the person I advocate support for is Raeesah Begum Bte Farid Khan of the Workers’ Party (WP).
Raeesah Khan is a women’s activist. She founded the Reyna Movement, an organisation that operates in Singapore and Johor that aims to empower marginalised women and children through upskilling programmes and community engagement. She uses her organisation to help women’s shelters, people without homes, at-risk children and low-income families.
But I live in Jurong, she is contesting in Sengkang GRC. I hope people in Sengkang GRC will vote for her as I cannot. Regardless of whether she and her WP team wins or not, I just hope that people will at least learn from her example. I hope her messages spread through parliament and beyond.
Racial Harmony is about Race, not Culture
Singapore is a majority-race controlled country. Everything is Chinese-centric. Because I don’t really fit within the Malay or Indian community, they can’t attack me according to the usual racial stereotypes. A Chinese uncle once told me to “go back to [my] own f***ing country”.
The more propaganda there is out there – the more we are encouraged to pretend things aren’t that bad – the more deep-seated the problem becomes. Casual racism should be abolished. If you call someone ‘smelly’ because of their race, you are being a full-blown raging racist.
Different people have found different ways to minimize our trauma. I have so many Indian friends who have been trained to accept it. Racism is a hate crime, casual or not.
I do not have hate or anger for all Chinese people. There are many truly amazing ones who agree that our culture is Chinese-centric and believe that they should work towards making things better for the minority. Older people are often let off the hook, and that’s not okay. It doesn’t hurt any less.
There needs to be a stronger emphasis on education, whether on sexual assault or racism.
Schools should not just teach the concept that ‘Indians make curry, Malays celebrate Hari Raya’. We keep thinking of racial harmony as a cultural thing. It is not. It is a racial thing. We need to understand each other’s races.
I want a government that enforces stricter laws against sexual assault and racism. These hate crimes have no place in our society.