News & Updates Sexual Assault Violence Against Women

Let’s Unite! to end violence against women

Every act on every level counts! #16DaysSG


You might be wondering after #MeToo, #NowWhat?

Through the recent online movement, #MeToo, thousands of women around the world – and in Singapore – came forward to have open and honest conversations about their experiences of surviving sexual violence. #MeToo has not only foregrounded the prevalence of sexual violence in Singapore, but also the silence surrounding the issue. At the end of the day, a hashtag can only go so far: the onus lies on us to take action every day.

We Can! Singapore invites you to be a part of Let’s Unite, a 16-day campaign* to end violence against women. Start taking action these 16 Days, between 25th Nov – 10th Dec 2017 so we can galvanise everyone’s efforts and show that we are building a strong community of support.

If you start saying ‘violence against women happens in Singapore’ → More people will learn about it → Others will say it too → Perpetrators’ behaviours will not be excused → More survivors will seek help → State and social support for survivors will be improved → Violence against women will be on its way out

Tell others that you want to end violence against women – and encourage them to join you!

Start your #16DaysSG journey below.






*16 Days of Activism is a global campaign that calls on individuals, groups and organisations to stand together against violence against women by pledging their support and taking action from 25 November, the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

Blog News & Updates Rape Culture Sexual Assault

We must end victim-blaming now

by Rio Hoe
The views expressed in this article are Rio’s own. The original article can be found here.

Victim-blaming is unacceptable. It is illogical and rests on a failure to distinguish the importance of precautions and the idea that people deserve to suffer for failing to take them. Rape is a deliberate act; the wrong always lies with the perpetrator, and never the victim.

In the context of rape, victim-blaming is unacceptable. Yet, it happens more often than we think. Take a look at some of the comments on a recent news article by ChannelNews Asia titled, ‘Man on trial for abducting and raping unconscious woman 15 years younger’ (Mar 30).

This above comment was the comment with the most ‘likes’ at time this blog entry was written. The comments section can be found here. There are more:

Rape is avoidable, if men don’t rape.

These sort of views are regressive. People who are raped do not “ask for it”. Rapists are not jailed “because she (the victim) said so”. In the context of rape, it does not “take 2 hands to clap” – in fact, that contradicts the very definition of rape as non-consensual sex. And finally, yes, rape is avoidable, if men don’t rape.

The wrong in rape is the wrong committed by the offender through a deliberate act of penetration despite the victim’s refusal, or inability to give consent. The victim commits no wrong. Even if the victim placed herself in a vulnerable position, it does not at all reduce the wrong committed by the offender. Thinking otherwise is illogical. If we blame rape victims for doing things that increase the likelihood of rape, shouldn’t we also condemn murder victims for failing to carry a weapon, or failing to end an abusive relationship, since these could have avoided a murder? Shouldn’t we also condemn people who become victims of harassment and abuse because they share political views which people dislike, since “they could have kept their mouth shut?”. We don’t, because we understand that people have a right not to be murdered, and a right to express their political views without being abused, or worse, physically harmed. So why do some people not accept that people have a right not to be raped? The fact is, victim-blaming is a problematic and illogical practice, and we should be unafraid to call people out on it, and put an end to it.

I can anticipate several responses to my claims. I will address just three of them for now.

First, one might ask: ‘does this mean we shouldn’t take precautions?’ Of course not. I do not think it is wrong to tell our friends and family to watch their drinks to prevent ‘spiking’, or to moderate their alcohol intake. But we should only do so because we are aware that the world is filled with people with bad intentions, and because we realize society is imperfect, and people do commit wrongs against women. But we should not do so because we believe that failing to take precautions puts the victim in the wrong. These are two very different attitudes to have; the latter constitutes victim-blaming, and is unacceptable.

There is a difference between reminding people to take care of themselves, and to blame them when a bad thing happens to them because they failed to do so

There is a difference between reminding people to take care of themselves, and to tell people that they are to blame when a bad thing happens to them because they failed to take care of themselves. Too many people fail to make this distinction.

Second, one might ask: in cases, such as in car accidents, the liability of the wrongdoer is reduced if the victim’s actions increased the likelihood of the wrong occurring. For example, if I ride my motorbike dangerously, or dash across the road, someone who knocks me down with his car will pay less compensation than if I had used a zebra crossing. So why should this not apply to rape? This argument is not uncommon – I encountered it in the same comments section as the comments above:

Deliberate wrongs belong to a special class of wrongs which attract condemnation despite a victims’ actions.

There is, in fact, a huge difference. In the case of motor accidents, the harm is caused (you guessed it), by accident. This changes the nature of the wrong; it is what we can call an accidental wrong. Hence, the traffic accident case is a different type of case from rape, which is a deliberate wrong. Think about it this way: if someone sets out to murder me by running me over with his car, surely I am not to be blamed for failing to use the overhead bridge, or for leaving my house in the first place. The murderer, through his/her deliberate acts, committed a wrong, and this causes my actions to ‘drop out of the picture’. Deliberate wrongs belong to a special class of wrongs which attract condemnation despite a victims’ actions. This is because the responsibility of the wrongdoer, having direct his/her free will towards causing harm, becomes the focus of our moral and legal censure.

Rapes are caused by people. They are not things that happen to people

Remember that rapes are caused by people. They are not things that happen to people. It is not like getting struck by lightning, or being crushed by a falling tree. Rape is a deliberate act, committed with the intention to harm. Hence, the wrong in rape lies solely with the rapist, never the victim.

Third, one might ask: where it is ‘easy’ to avoid rape, shouldn’t victims attract some blame if they fail to do so? In response, I argue that it is not for anyone to say what is ‘easy’ for someone else. As seen from the comments above, some victim-blamers suggest that for women, it is as ‘easy’ as, for example, not drinking, or avoiding the company of men who have previously made advances towards them.

This is wrong, and let me explain why. Women are already disadvantaged in the workplace due to sexist attitudes, and the fact that corporate leadership remains male-dominated (I recently wrote an article on this). It is unlikely that they can avoid the advancements of their male colleagues, or avoid corporate events that include alcohol, if they wish to advance their careers, since these actions may be seen by the male-led corporate leadership as being ‘unsociable’, or failing to be a ‘team-player’.

Hence, the argument that vulnerable situations are ‘easy’ to avoid ignores the unequal power structures that women have to deal with on a daily basis. In the rape case reported above, for example, it was reported that ‘the victim tolerated Ong’s (the rapist) advances so as not to jeopardise her internship at an F&B company whose owners were friends with the accused’.

I am glad that in the comments section of the above-mentioned news article, some people have called out victim-blamers for their ill-founded views. However the fact that victim-blaming comments regularly end up as the ‘top’ comments (with the most ‘likes’) demonstrate the pervasiveness of this regressive mentality in our society. I hope that my contribution will help people call out those who victim-blame, and explain to them why they are wrong, and why their attitudes must change.


This post was contributed by Rio Hoe of ConsensusSG.


Not Anyone’s Girl

Written by Corrine Lin, Change Maker

 Unpublished+She+Said+Article.“I won’t want my girl to work in Marketing as it involves a lot of client entertainment. It’s best for you to stay in your current department now.”This was perhaps one of the most offensive statement I’ve come across in my career life when I requested for a transfer. At that time, I was working in a ‘male dominated’ industry where Marketing and Sales meant the same scope of work; to meet clients, get sales orders, have dinner, keep them entertained with drinks and party all night. It felt like a norm back then, that there was no choice but to accept being the lesser valued gender, being in a man’s industry.

Even when I was doing my diploma, we had only about four girls in a class of 40 guys in our course. When I started my first job, I was the only female employee working on-site for my company. Looking back, it was either inspiring or intimidating, especially to those who avoided the very industry I was entering. Due to this very reason, I have always felt taken care of by my colleagues and especially my bosses. They feared for my safety, especially in a site filled with hundreds of males. When I entered meeting rooms, the usual harsh tones and vulgarities became mellowed. Men’s conversations turn into awkward whispers when I came in to office. Although I was treated with respect and politeness, I always felt scrutinised, weak and never really belonged no matter how much I tried to fit in. It was a lot harder for me to break past this comfort barrier and challenge myself in my career progression.

While the statement above seemed like a protective move from my then boss, I was very much offended by it. Despite many justifications and enthusiasm in taking up the role, I was still denied the transfer. I was not evaluated based on my capability but by who I was. Furthermore, I am not anyone’s girl. To date, neither have my father nor my husband has introduced me as their girl. I am a daughter, I am a wife, but never anyone’s girl because I belong to me. Would any professionals refer their male subordinates as their boy? Even when I had a female boss, she has never demean her male subordinates with such labels. I quit the job not long later, after a three hour talk with my manager trying to persuade me to stay.

In any field of study or work, and especially life, it pays a lot more to prove our worth by accomplishing results with our commitment, efforts and intellect. We are all individuals with capabilities, personalities and characters or our own. All we need, is mutual respect.

Today, the male domination labels are slowly diminishing. Women like us have access to supportive and empowered environment; we are climbing up corporate boards, we have female Presidents and we are making positive dents in the world. For those of us who are still behind shadows, it’s time to break past this limiting barrier we think others are setting for us. The world is our oyster now.


About the Author

Profilepic3Corrine writes for L3 Hub (, a ​​space created for girls to come together, support and encourage each other, learn and develop themselves to be more confident and better individuals.


Understanding Violence III: Guidelines for supporting friends

This is part 3 of the Understanding Violence guidelines series. Take a look at Part 1 and Part 2!

Abusive relationships (e.g. dating abuse, domestic abuse, elderly abuse)

  1. Help your friend make a safety plan. Safety plans are meant to be activated in case of an emergency and can be very different depending on the situation. There are many resources online on how to make a safety plan for different circumstances, but here are some basic elements to consider if your friend is living with their abuser:
    • Identify safe friends and places they could go to in an emergency
    • Help them pack a bag with essential items to take, should they need or decide to leave home. This bag should be kept at work or at a friend’s place.
    • Save emergency phone numbers in their phone (friend’s numbers, a Helpline number, etc) or on a piece of paper they keep in their purse, but in a way that will not arouse suspicion if their abuser goes through their phone/belongings.
    • Ask them what they are already doing to survive, and build on their existing strategies.
  2. If the abuser is a spouse, the victim can apply for a Personal Protection Order (PPO) from the courts. The PPO may also come with mandatory counselling for the perpetrator. A violation of the PPO is grounds for arrest. The victim can also seek legal separation on grounds of abuse.
  3. Other options for someone in an abusive relationship include:
    • Individual counselling for the victim and/or perpetrator
    • Arbitration by family or friends
  4. Resources:
    • Family Violence Specialist Centres:
      • PAVE (Promoting Alternatives to Violence) – 6555 0390
      • TRANS Safe Centre – 6449 9088
  • Project StART Care Corner Helpline (for Mandarin speakers) – 1800 222 0000
  • Samaritans of Singapore (Suicidal) -1800 221 4444
  • Family Service Centres (ComCare Helpline) – 1800 222 0000
  • TWC2 (for migrant workers) – 1800 888 1515
  • AWARE Helpline – 1800 774 5935

Sexual assault or harassment

  1. Look up for information and resources on sexual assault.
    • Services include helpline, email support, WhatsApp chat, befriender service, counselling and case management and a drop-in centre.
    • Understand the laws, policies and procedures to make a police report.
    • Sexual Assault Care Centre hotline – 6779 0282
  2. Look up for information specific to workplace sexual harassment.

Understanding Violence Part II: Guidelines for supporting friends

This is part 2 of the Understanding Violence guidelines series. Take a look at Part 1 here

Woman-crying_920x380_scaled_cropp1.  Support them through their choices.

If they want to make a police report or go to the hospital, offering to go with them for support can make a big difference.

  • If they are open to seeing a counsellor, you can offer to call and make an appointment for them.
  • If they agree to make a safety plan, you can make it with them.
  • You can follow up with them on steps they wanted to take, checking in gently to see how they’re doing and if they have made any progress on that/require further support. 

2.  Offer resources. Often, people may not realise what options are available to them. Look up resources for support in such a situation, and share them with your friend. It could be a helpline number, free legal services, counselling services, etc. Educate yourself on the available options and discuss them with your friend. If you are able to, and comfortable with it, you can also offer personal resources. For example, they may need some money or a place to stay temporarily while they figure out their next steps. 

3.  Be sensitive to their position. When a victim of violence is queer, disabled, poor, an ethnic or religious minority, an immigrant, is lacking family support or is facing other societal and structural barriers, they may have even less access to conventional modes of support. Be sensitive to their particular situation, and don’t assume anything about their experience. 

4.  Encourage them to document their experience(s) of violation or abuse, with as many accurate details as possible. Even if they are not intending to make a police report at present, evidence collection and accounts of their experience can help build a case if they change their mind in the future or if the violence escalates and they want to seek legal recourse. 

support-survivors-sign5.  Self care is essential. When our loved ones experience trauma, it often affects us too. While supporting them, we must be responsible in caring for ourselves too and remember to do little things for ourselves that keep our spirits up, and seek help if we need to. 

6.  Encourage them to seek professional help. There are limits to the extent that friends and family can support someone experiencing trauma. Trained professionals can provide support in a multitude of ways, ranging from hotlines and counselling services to legal advice and casework. Encourage them to get the help they need if and when they are ready to. 

7.  Intervening during an incident of violence can be difficult, and even dangerous, but not impossible. Your safety is top priority. Every situation is different, but some ways people have effectively intervened when they witness sexual harassment or abusive behaviour are:

  1. Calling the police
  2. Asking the victim if they are OK or need help
  3. Getting the attention of others around so you have support and can speak in a collective voice
  4. If the perpetrator is known to you, and you feel you have the power to intervene safely (e.g. your friend is getting aggressive or touchy with someone in a club), you can leave with them, take them away from that area/the victim, or persuade them to stop.
  5. Distraction can be useful. In a case of molest on public transport, or catcalling, you can pretend to know the victim and strike up a conversation with them, offer your seat to the victim, or place yourself between them and the perpetrator.

Think about different scenarios you have been in and strategies that might be helpful. Talk to others about their experiences and strategies.

Supportive responses Unsupportive responses
•       It’s not your fault

•       I believe you

•       We’re here for you

•       What do you want to do?

•       What can I do to help?

•       Should we look up options together?

•       We can talk about it whenever you want to

•       This matters. You matter.

•       You don’t deserve to go through this.

•       I’m so sorry that happened.

•       (The perpetrator) is responsible for what happened, not you.

•       Who else do you trust to talk about this to?

•       Do you want me or someone else to talk to (the perpetrator)?

•       Do you want some space?

•       I’m going to support you no matter what.

•       You have nothing to be ashamed of.

•       You didn’t let it happen, (the perpetrator) chose to do it.

•       It’s your own doing

•       You can’t call that abuse/rape

•       You have to leave him!

•       Don’t take it so seriously

•       Are you sure?

•       What were you wearing?

•       Why did you…? / Why didn’t you…?

•       You have to take care of yourself better.

•       Don’t talk to that person anymore.

•       You chose to date a guy like that

•       Think about your kids/others

•       I told you so

•       Don’t exaggerate/Don’t lie

•       Just ignore it

•       Forget about it, it’s no big deal

•       How could you let this happen?

•       Let it go/It’s time to get over it

•       Think about (the perpetrator’s) life

•       Toughen up/Stop crying

•       You can’t let people treat you like that

•       If you weren’t so weak, this wouldn’t happen


A statistical approach to ‘She cried rape’

by Min, Change Maker

article-new-thumbnail-ehow-images-a07-of-7f-out-police-interrogation-800x800-2A scantily-clad woman with a black dress, high heels, red lipstick and smoky eye make-up approaches the officer. The officer stares at her, scrutinising her from head to toe. He shakes his head.

“So, you say you’ve been raped?” he asks.

The woman nods. Despite her strong and confident outer appearance, inside, she is scared. She is trying not to think about it, but she is deeply traumatised.

“Really? But you followed him back to his apartment willingly,” he questions her skeptically. Glancing at the documents, he adds, “Besides, you have a very active sex life. 100 men in a year, I hear.”

She sighs. They don’t believe her.

Her case is not uncommon in Singapore. In fact, until 2012, Section 157(d) of the Evidence Act made it possible to discredit a victim of sexual assault based on her sexual history. This means that if a victim is known to be a very sexually active person, the judges are less likely to believe that she has been sexually assaulted or raped.

There are several reasons why people would think a woman would cry rape. The reasons ranges from revenge to regretting a one night’s stand.

However, how many of rape accusations are really false allegations?

The percentage of false rape allegations cases are few, even insignificant

The numbers may be shocking to some. In the United States, 8% of rape allegations are false. In other countries, it ranges from between 1.5% to 10%. Research by National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women reports through research that 2 to 8% of rape allegations are false.

This means that when a woman claims to be raped, often times than not, she is telling the truth.

Besides, false rape allegations are also unlikely to happen because of stigma attached to having been raped


Society has a wide range of negative responses to someone who’s been raped. Victim-blaming is common, blaming them for dressing too inappropriately and/or simply ‘asking for it’. Society might look down upon them, and perceive them as ‘cheap’ and ‘used’, because they are no longer ‘innocent’. Other times, they will be told to keep silent, because being raped is disgraceful.

Hence, it is even more unlikely that a woman would risk all that just to pretend to be a rape victim.

In fact, many cases of rape or sexual assault go unreported

In Singapore, 90% of sexual crimes are not reported. A survey has also shown that 75% of physical and sexual violence cases are unreported.

As friends and family, we should do our best to be understanding and supportive whenever our loved ones confide in us about a sexual assault or rape. Being judgmental or brushing the topic aside only risks denying justice to those who experience rape or sexual assault.


imagesI strongly believe we, not just as a society but as family and friends of someone who’s been raped, should listen attentively whenever someone confides in us instead of jumping to conclusions straightaway. I have never had any friends who have been raped, but I do know that if I had one, I would listen to their story and support them all the way. After all, what is a friend if they won’t believe your side of the story?

I think society should also be more mindful when making assumptions about a person. It does not mean a woman is lying about rape just because she was sexually active, may have agreed to be alone with the man and/or had said initially yes to a sexual advance.

Rape can happen to anyone.

About the author: Min is someone who is not afraid to speak out if she believes that something needs to be said or done. Many a times, her strong passion and faith in her beliefs lead to little changes being done. She hopes that others will do the same.


Sexual Assault: Jokes and Desensitisation

by Delia Toh, Change Maker

AssaultJust a few weeks ago, popular American Youtuber Sam Pepper uploaded a video of himself pinching the bottoms of women on the streets as a prank. Most women in the video expressed discomfort, but he laughed it off and insisted it was “just a prank”. Closer to home, at a social event I attended, two men enacted a rape scene on stage in an attempt to amuse the audience. Last year, men were up in arms about Ministry of Defence’s ban of a verse about a soldier threatening to gang rape his girlfriend.

As a 22 year old woman, I can attest to the fact that the fear of sexual assault is very real. From a young age, we have been told never to dress provocatively or walk home alone at night. I am fortunate to have never experienced sexual assault, but I have heard many harrowing accounts from my friends, some of whom are victims of sexual assault. The issue of sexual assault is and will always be a part of my life – when it happens to loved ones, when women subconsciously fear for our safety, when women accept taking added precautions to prevent sexual assault as part and parcel of our daily lives.

Sexual assault is a serious matter. Rapists are most likely someone the victims know and trust. Contrary to popular belief, the rapist who leaps out of bushes to rape women passing by at 2 o’clock in the morning is the rarest kind of rapist. As such, when people make light of sexual assault among friends or on social media, it normalises the idea of sexual assault. Someone who already has the intention to violate another person will only receive further validation from these jokes.

Victims of sexual assault rarely seek the help they need because of the stigma and victim blaming they have to endure if they choose to speak out about their experiences. Without a supportive environment, they would only suffer further, especially if people, even their loved ones and peers, treat their experiences as a source of entertainment. I believe people generally refrain from joking about murder victims – it is time we extended that basic respect to victims of sexual assault.

Ultimately, a joke is not merely a joke – it can reflect dangerous attitudes. It is not about whether or not the person making the joke would act on it; it is about the kind of environment we’d like our future generations to grow up in. It is time we treated sexual assault as the grave and inhumane crime that it is.

deliaAbout the author: Delia is a second year Chemical Engineering undergraduate at University College London. She has enjoyed blogging since her secondary school days. She would now like to move on from raving about school work to raising awareness through her writing. She strongly believes people are more different than similar, and that individuals ought to be valued for who they are inside.


Women’s right to refuse

by Kokila Annamalai

On May 23, Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree in Isla Vista, California, that was motivated by the desire to punish women for rejecting him.

While many in the international community have condemned his actions, some men on social media responded with empathy for Rodger and a certain understanding of his sentiments.

A group of men went further to start a Facebook group to hero-worship Rodger.

On June 16, University of Washington student Keshav Bhide was arrested for claiming to be “the next Elliot Rodger” and threatening to murder women.

He claimed everything Rodger did was justified and publicly praised the latter’s actions. These men not only defend Rodger’s actions, but relate to his anger towards women who rejected him.

Their anger in response to sexual rejection hints at a perceived right to have sex with the women they desire and a denial of women’s right to refuse.

10462925_775293269172273_4951615495759693325_nWhile some have blamed Rodger’s mental health issues for his actions, it is clear from the support of some men and the many such stories of men’s violence in reaction to women’s sexual rejection — collected by online campaign When Women Refuse — that Rodger’s attitude towards women is not a psychological problem, but a social one.

Women around the world experience violence when they reject men’s sexual advances. Why?

A recent United Nations survey of 10,000 men in Asia and the Pacific found that nearly half of the men interviewed reported using physical or sexual violence against a female partner and nearly a quarter admitted to rape.

The most common motivation that men cited for rape was sexual entitlement — a belief that they have a right to sex with women regardless of consent. In short, women are seen as not having the right to say no to sex.

Singapore, too, has seen incidents of women being attacked for rejecting men.

Recently, a man reportedly threw alcohol and smashed a glass into the face of a woman who ignored his advances at a club in Clarke Quay.

Readers’ comments in response to news reports of the incident included those that said the victim must have been out in Clarke Quay because she was desperate for sex and that she should have “use (sic) more EQ if she intend (sic) to reject him”.

When women are raped or sexually assaulted, they are often told they should have said no more assertively or fought off the perpetrator. They are blamed for sending mixed signals or not doing enough to stop the rape.

Yet, when women are attacked for rejecting sexual advances, they are told they should have been more polite or tactful about it.

This is a clear case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. These victim-blaming attitudes excuse men’s sexual violence as uncontrollable, reinforcing their sense of sexual entitlement.

Right to choose

Male sexual entitlement is perpetuated through mainstream media, where men are regularly shown responding to women’s rejection with anger and violence.

In Singapore, it is also perpetuated through the law, which gives men immunity when they force their wives to have sex, unless the couple are living apart or a Personal Protection Order has been started or obtained prior to the incident.

The masculine rhetoric of sex as conquest, rather than as an experience shared by two consenting adults, diminishes women’s right to say no.

IMG_8235When male sexual aggression is portrayed as an acceptable way of flirting or engaging in sex, rather than as harassment or violence, women are not safe when they reject men.

Sex education must focus on the importance of consent and the right of everyone to say no without fear of repercussion.

Language such as “giving in” or “putting out” in reference to women consenting to intercourse reduces their role in sex to submission, rather than active participation.

All of us have a right to choose whom we have sex with. Women’s sexual desires and choices are as important as men’s.

Fixating on Rodger’s psyche or that of the men who commit violence against women draws attention away from underlying social norms and power structures that contribute to such violence.

Men should not have to prove their masculinity by committing violence against women, while women should have the right to say no to sex without fear of repercussion.

Only then can women be equal participants in private and public life, able to exercise their choice with intimate partners or a stranger at a club.

253373_582646388436963_347306196_nAbout the author: Kokila Annamalai (pictured, left) is the campaign coordinator for We Can! End All Violence Against Women (Singapore chapter), a global movement against gender violence.

This opinion piece was first published in TODAY on 26 June 2014.



Busting Rape Myths

1: Rapists are usually strangers.

In Singapore and around the world, most sexual assault is committed by someone known to the victim. Sexual assault can be committed by a date, friends, family members, intimate partners or spouses. Around the world, acquaintance rape is much more common than stranger rape, and makes up close to 80% of all rape cases1.

Rubbed Wrong Way

2: Women say “no” to sex when they actually mean “yes”.

When someone says no, always take it to mean no. Trust that they know best, and take them at face value. Only treat an active, enthusiastic “yes” as consent to sexual activity. It is better to forego sex than to potentially molest or rape someone.

3: Women often “cry rape” – i.e. make false reports of rape to seek attention, take revenge on men or because they are in denial that they consented to sex.

False allegations of rape are statistically insignificant2 and are no more common than false reports of any other crime. Rape is the most under-reported crime in the world3. Feelings of shame and self-doubt, as well as fear of stigma and not being believed, often prevent victims from coming forward. To encourage more victims to report, we must debunk this myth.

4: Someone who’s drunk can’t say no to sex, so it’s not rape to perform sexual acts on them.

Someone who is drunk can’t say yes to sex! Silence or submission is not consent. The individual must be able and willing to give informed consent to sex. Sexual activity with someone whose judgment is impaired by intoxicants, or who is unconscious, is sexual assault.

5: A woman who flirts with a man, goes back to his apartment, makes out with him or shares a bed with him cannot claim rape.

These circumstances, and others, do not excuse rape. Neither do they make rape the woman’s fault. Consent has to be explicit and sought for each stage of intimacy. It can also be withdrawn at any point. Whenever someone asks to stop, others must respect that choice. Continuing or coercing the person makes it assault. Blaming the victim because of the way she was dressed, because she has been intimate with the man before, or because she trusted and felt comfortable with the man prior to the assault, shows a denial of women’s right to choose with whom and when they have sex. It also excuses rapists and perpetuates sexual violence in society.

6: Rape happens because men can’t control their sexual urges.

Studies show that men rape because they feel a sense of sexual entitlement4. In other words, men rape because they can get away with it. Rape is a violent act that involves taking agency away from someone and exerting control over them – it is a crime of power. People of all genders have sexual urges, and they all also have the power to control them.

7: It’s only rape if the woman struggled and tried to fight it off physically. If there are no bruises or blood, it can’t be rape.

Sexual assault is not just physical coercion, but psychological coercion. In cases of psychological coercion (e.g. the victim is blackmailed or pressurised) or where the woman is afraid or unable to resist (e.g. the victim is drunk, unconscious, tired or too terrified), there is seldom physical violence or force. An assault can occur without visible evidence of force or resistance. Faced with the threat of rape, victims of assault may freeze or surrender, as they believe (and it’s often true) that this minimises harm and pain5. Submission is not  consent, and doesn’t make what happened less of a rape.


8: Sex workers or women who are very sexually active shouldn’t be taken seriously when they report rape.

Any sexual activity without consent is sexual assault, no matter who the people involved are or what their relationship is. Similarly, a person’s sexual history or experience of sex work does not mean that they cannot be assaulted. As long as they didn’t consent to that instance of sex with that person, it is rape.

9: Men cannot be sexually assaulted.

While most rapes occur against women, men can also be victims of sexual assault. Although Singapore’s Penal Code narrowly defines ‘rape’ as a crime that cannot be committed by a woman against a man, there is also the crime of ‘sexual penetration’ which carries the same penalties and criminalises non-consensual penetration of men. However, social stigma remains a serious barrier toward male victims seeking help. This isn’t helped by popular culture treating the rape of male prisoners as a joke or a perverse form of “justice”.


1. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1995). National Crime Victimization Survey.

2. Lonsway, K., Archambault, J., & Lisak, D. (2009) False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault. The National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women.

3. Justice Department. (2008-2012). National Crime Victimization Survey.

4. Jewkes, R., Fulu, E., Roselli, T., Garcia-Moreno, C. (2013). Prevalence of and factors associated with non-partner rape perpetration: findings from the UN Multi-country Cross-sectional Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific. The Lancet Global Health.

5. Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and Recovery. Basic Books.


Victim-blaming in the media

by Ian Mak, Change Maker

We all know how the media can shape people’s ideas and perceptions. But I never really cared—perhaps, I was jaded by the avalanche of media that bombards us nowadays.

I first came across the term ‘victim-blaming’ while first working for the We Can! campaign. It refers to how victims, especially those of sexual assault, are held responsible for others’ attacks on them. Society often adopts such attitudes towards rape and sexual assault in particular, and many assume that being assaulted is, in some part, the fault of the victim.

To me, intuitively, the thought of victim-blaming was simply absurd. It is like kicking someone when they’re down, and only serves to exacerbate the pain the victim must feel. I did not expect to find such an attitude in my own country.

How wrong I was. Victim-blaming doesn’t simply just exist in Singapore; it is rampant in our daily lives, creates a toxic mentality that condones crime and manufactures an atmosphere of fear.

Check out the infamous poster from the police that pushes the responsibility of not being attacked, assaulted or targeted, to the victim.

Rubbed Wrong Way

I feel that this line of advertising is extremely problematic. In the first poster, the rapist is shrouded in shadow and his face cannot be seen clearly. In contrast, the victim is placed in the spotlight. The focus is clearly shifted from the perpetrator to the victim. It is as if the victim is the only one we are asked to focus on, in a crime that they have no control over.

This isn’t an isolated incident on the Internet. The Singapore Police Force is a well-respected public institution, which arguably holds significant authority and sway over public opinion, yet it is endorsing the message that “it’s your responsibility” to avoid being attacked.

Such advertising disempowers individuals, making people fearful of their own safety, as well as feel that they are in some way, at fault for having been assaulted. Worse still, this sends the message to potential sex criminals that their behaviour is acceptable.

More worryingly, such advertising is indicative of a wider culture of victim-blaming that exists in Singapore. Often, families with conservative values would keep hush sexual crimes that happen to family members, for fear of the loss of ‘face’ that entails. Police officers have claimed that rape cannot happen unless a girl ‘opens her legs’. In the end, the victim is unable to gain support from figures that are supposed to be in positions of trust and power to them.

This is not a problem that Singapore alone faces. In 2012, the reputed US news agency CNN reported the infamous Steubenville rape case from a sympathetic stance toward the rapists involved. CNN anchor Candy Crowley claimed it was ‘incredibly difficult’ to hear the guilty verdict as the two culprits who had ‘such promising futures, star football players, literally watched as their lives fell apart’. What they failed to mention, however, was the hurt and damage caused by such a heinous crime. By focusing bizarrely on the culprit, CNN sorely detracted from the gravity of the crime and the plight of the victim.

dontbethatguyBut we also may look overseas to find a better model in tackling rape and other crimes. In contrast to our local ‘Don’t Get Rubbed the Wrong Way’ posters, campaigns overseas such as the Canadian ‘Don’t Be That Guy’ message place the focus squarely on the perpetrator, warning people to not be the culprit. By doing so, they send out the clear message that rape is never acceptable in any circumstance, and forces people to take responsibility for their actions. In contrast to local advertisements, this is empowering.

More importantly, however, each of us needs to question how we ourselves have witnessed victim-blaming and whether we have consciously or unconsciously been guilty of condoning such attitudes. We need to make a commitment to being conscious of our own attitudes and speak out if a friend or family member expresses a sentiment that may be damaging or incorrect.