It was recently reported in the news that a GrabHitch driver in Singapore has been convicted for masturbating in front of a female passenger. And no, the car wasn’t stationary—the driver was steering with one hand while jerking off with the other.
While this isn’t the first time a private-hire driver here has been accused of indecent behaviour (in February this year, for example, another GrabHitch driver was sentenced to 15 months’ jail for molesting a passenger), this is easily the most baffling case. I mean, that’s some next-level hand-eye coordination.
So what should you do if your private-hire driver is being a pervert? Whip out your phone and record the harassment so you’ll have evidence? Well, you can—but that shouldn’t be your priority.
“Pictures or videos are definitely useful for proving your case in court, so if you’re able to take them, go ahead. However, your priority should be ensuring your safety, so I would suggest you refrain from taking them if it’ll provoke your harasser and endanger your safety,” says Cheryl Ng, Litigation Director at Intelleigen Legal LLC.
“Get out of the car if possible, like when it stops at a red light, and call the police. If the car is on the expressway and won’t be stopping anytime soon, avoid antagonising the harasser and wait till it’s a good time to safely get out.”
She adds that you shouldn’t worry about collecting evidence because, when you lodge a police report, the police will usually seek out CCTV footage from the front-facing cameras in private-hire cars.
“Whether or not there is sufficient evidence should not be your primary concern—it’s more important that the harasser gets arrested first. Furthermore, if the case proceeds to trial, your word can be relied on for evidence. Many sexual offences are cases of he-said-she-said, so this should not deter you,” she says.
“When you tell the truth and your story is consistent, you’ll be believed. Don’t be discouraged if the prosecution does not obtain a conviction. It does not mean that the offence did not happen, merely that it has not reached the legal threshold.”
You probably know this already, but there are laws here that protect women from sexual harassment: they are section 509 of the Singapore Penal Code (insulting a woman’s modesty) and the Protection from Harassment Act, so sexually harassing a woman in Singapore is a big deal when it comes to the law.
“When a man exposes himself sexually to a woman, this would likely cross the custodial threshold and he will go to jail. The first thing a victim should do when this happens to her is to make a police report,” advises Cheryl.
“If the police decide not to prosecute, you can take out a Magistrate’s Complaint against the harasser for a Penal Code offence or apply for a protection order under the Prevention of Harassment Act.”
The sad truth is that many women don’t report sexual harassment as they don’t think they’ll get justice. But Cheryl says every report will make a difference, regardless of the legal outcome.
“In my experience, men who expose themselves seldom do it just once, so you speaking out might encourage other victims to do so as well,” she explains.
“If there are multiple victims, the likelihood of a conviction is higher if the testimonies are equally consistent and believable.”
So remember: take pictures only if it won’t threaten your safety, and take a non-confrontational approach while looking for an opportunity to escape.