In this day and age, sexual harassment takes form in many different and always ugly, ways. Just in 2015, the number of sexual harassment cases was at a high of 163. We often hear stories online regarding these cases done by a stranger on the MRT, or even an acquaintance at a party. In actual fact, it could even be a family member or a close friend. Contrary to popular belief, victims of sexual harassment do not have a particular look, personality or gender, and anyone could be affected.
Credit: THE STANDBY COLLECTIVE
As sexual harassment is a traumatising experience, many victims are not able to react immediately.
If you encounter a form of sexual harassment on the MRT, you can help by:
- Locating and pressing the Emergency Communication Button (ECB) at the side of the train door to speak to the train officer.
- Sharing what you encountered and indicate the carriage number (it is the 4-digit number displayed above the two seater of the MRT).
This alerts the train officer, who will not open the train doors until the station staff arrives. When they do, you should let them know who the culprit is. The harasser will be asked to alight from the train for further investigation.
Apart from alerting the authorities, there are other ways that you could step in to help the victim. However, discretion is advised as every scenario should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Keep in mind that there really is no one-way solution to this. You could:
- Start a conversation with the victim to stop the harasser.
- Ask the harasser to stop
- Put yourself between harasser and victim to deter harasser.
- Bring the victim away from the harasser.
- Ask the harasser what he/she is doing to draw attention toward the situation.
The emotional impact of abuse, harassment or assault can be both immediate and long-lasting. It is a difficult but important conversation to have, especially for the victim who might be going through a wide range of responses – including sadness, anger, shame, fear, self-blame, shock, or feelings of helplessness. As sexual harassment is almost always a violation of trust; it often leaves survivors doubting their own judgement.
Your understanding and support may be a source of support for your friend to begin his or her journey to gain that sense of trust that has been lost.
Here is how you can help:
Credit: THE STANDBY COLLECTIVE
Listen attentively. Allow your friend to trust you with their story and not be judged. Even if you find yourself doubting the story, or if something doesn’t quite make sense – don’t show it. Doubting their facts is not helpful, and can often be re-traumatising.
Let them take the lead
As much as you want to know the details at a faster pace, respect them enough to know that the topic at hand is a difficult one to talk about. Let your friend take the lead by determining the pace and focus of the conversation. As sexual harassment is almost always a disempowering experience, it is important for victims to maintain control over what happens next.
Study the information and options available and present it to your friend, but always remember to let them make the final decision. Do not pressure them into informing their parents or other authorities if they are not comfortable about it. You may disagree with their decisions, but you should always listen and help them understand their available options and ultimately, support them when they arrive at a decision.
Whatever the situation, the victim is never at fault. Avoid judgmental questions and statements, even if you do have doubts. Remember that your friend may be internally blaming themselves for what happened.
If you know of someone who is struggling with his/her sexual harassment or assault experience and requires professional help, please contact Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) or other counselling services here. Counselling is conducted at the centre on weekdays, by appointment. Call (6779 0282) or email to ask for counselling support.