News @ AsiaOne

'9 in 10 sex crimes not reported'

Stigma and shame prevent victims from reporting the crime. -TNP
Maureen Koh

Tue, Jan 08, 2013
The New Paper

A Nepalese woman shouts slogan during a protest against what they say is an increase in violence against women in Kathmandu.

SINGAPORE - Ninety per cent of sexual crimes go unreported because of the stigma and shame that a victim is subject to, say two counsellors from the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) Singapore.

"There's still a lot of victim blaming in our society. Many sexual assault survivors who call the Sexual Assault Befrienders Service (Sabs) helpline face questions from their family, friends and the police like, 'Who asked you to dress like that?' or 'What do you expect him to think if you don't walk away?'," says counsellor Quah Siang Hui.

In Alexis' case, Ms Quah says: "What is particularly disturbing about this case is that it is more than gang rape.

"While gang rape is a heinous crime against women in itself, in this case, the boys targeted the victim because she is a lesbian. This is a hate crime against homosexuals."

She describes the rape as "corrective rape", where a person is raped because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ms Grace Phua, who is also an Aware counsellor, adds: "The common intended consequence of the rape, as seen by the perpetrator, is to 'correct' their orientation, to turn them heterosexual, or to make them 'act' more in conformity with gender stereotypes.

"Such acts show a dangerous intolerance which we cannot allow in our society. "We must grow towards becoming a more inclusive society that recognises the needs and preferences of diverse groups of people who are different from us."

Sabs, run by Aware, provides support services to victims of sexual assault and rape. It comprises a dedicated helpline, counselling, legal counselling and befriending services, all for free.

Sabs Befrienders accompany the sexual assault victim to the police, the hospital or to court, providing information and emotional support to guide and help the victim through the various legal and medical processes.

"

That can help the victims cope with the trauma.

Ms Quah says: "There are definitely many more resources for rape victims today than there were 20 years ago.

"Professional counselling for rape victims picked up in the last 10 years. Twenty years ago, it was probably in its infancy."

Ms Phua notes that families often have a lot of influence on victims, whether positive or negative.

She says: "Often, for younger victims, the parents come with her to see us. Some families are very supportive, and this strongly increases the likelihood that the victim will make it through the ordeal much better.

"Of course, at times, family pressure or fear of disgracing the family stops victims from reporting (to the police).

"When the victim is accused by family members for her rape, she might feel she is at fault and thus not report the case." She says: "Counsellors at Aware strongly encourage victims to make their own decisions.

"We help them explore their options, and discuss the consequences of their choices with them, so that they can make an informed decision and are well prepared to handle the outcome."

HELPLINES

- Sexual Assault Befrienders Service (Sabs): 6779-0282

- Samaritans of Singapore (24 hours): 1800-221-4444

- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019

- Care Corner Mandarin Counselling Centre: 1800-353-5800

maureenk@sph.com.sg


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