Thanks to the conversation started by the #MeToo movement, we’re now more aware of what constitutes sexual harassment, and how we can handle the situation better when it happens – be it to us or someone else.
It can count as sexual harassment if…
- You feel uncomfortable about the way somebody is looking at you.
- Comments that you never asked for were made about your body.
- Unprompted questions were asked about your sex life.
- A sexual remark was made about you.
- Explicit photos were sent to you even though you didn’t ask for them.
- Pornographic images were sent without you asking for them.
- Abusive language of a sexual nature was used on you.
- Depending on the circumstances, photos were taken of you without your consent – even if you’re fully clothed. For example, upskirt photos.
What to do if it happens to you
There are many ways to handle sexual harassment, and so much of it depends on the circumstances. These are just some general things you should take note of if you find yourself in such a situation.
- If you feel that something is wrong, know that you have every right to say so.
- Tell the aggressor to stop.
- If you feel unsafe, ask for help from others or get yourself to a safe space ASAP.
- Speak to a professional, who can help you make sense of your experience and acknowledge your emotions. For instance, you can call the Sexual Assault Care Centre.
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If it happens to someone you know…
How you react to sexual harassment incidents involving someone else can make a huge difference in their lives.
- Never make excuses for the perpetrator.
- Do not victim-blame. (For example, you shouldn’t suggest that what they were wearing or how they were behaving was inviting their aggressor to violate them.)
- Acknowledge their emotions and hear them out.
- Support them if they decide to take any action.
- Encourage them to seek professional help if needed.
One important thing to note is that sexual harassment can happen to anyone – regardless of gender.
Last month, The Straits Times published a report on how the number of male victims of molestation is on the rise. Police data showed that in Singapore, there were 98 male victims of outrage of modesty, or molestation, in 2016, making up 7 per cent of molestation victims.
There were 74 male victims in 2010, or 5 per cent of all molestation victims.
While the number of victims who reported the offence to police has risen since 2010, social workers, medical professionals and lawyers interviewed say they are but the tip of the iceberg. Sexual abuse cases in general tend to be under-reported because of factors such as the culture of secrecy and shame felt by victims.
Last year, 7 per cent of the 1,347 molestation victims were male, including young boys. Of the 98 male victims, 60 per cent were aged 21 and below.
Some 4 per cent of the 338 cases handled last year by Aware’s Sexual Assault Care Centre involved male victims. They were either molested or experienced other forms of sexual violence, including sexual harassment.
Lawyer Daniel Atticus Xu noted the misconception that men cannot be molested. “This isn’t true, outrage of modesty cases can happen to both sexes. There might be the misconception as most of the time, cases involving female victims are the ones highlighted,” he said.
If you have experienced sexual assault or are unsure about a sexual encounter, you can get help by calling the Sexual Assault Care Centre at 6779 0282 (Monday to Friday, 10am to midnight).
Text: Theresa Tan, Tan Tam Mei / The Straits Times / December 2017
Additional text: Sophie Hong