Enhanced support welcomed by Aware, lawyers

Enhanced support welcomed by Aware, lawyers
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Advocacy group the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) welcomed initiatives to enhance support for sexual crime victims, but said it hoped improvements would help address the under-reporting it has observed of sexual crimes.

The Ministry of Home Affairs announced new measures yesterday including a centre at the Police Cantonment Complex where adult rape victims can undergo medical examinations without having to go to a public hospital.

Aware, which runs a Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC), said its clients have often met with frustration and difficulty in reporting alleged assault.

This is because they have to make multiple trips to different agencies, experience long waiting times for interviews or examinations, and find themselves giving statements about an incident several times.

"By combining medical assistance, forensic examination and police reporting, this initiative has the potential to make the reporting process much less onerous and stressful," said Aware.

Last year, 41 per cent of the 338 people who reached out to the SACC did so in connection with an incident of alleged rape - making it the most frequently reported offence there.

But Aware's head of advocacy and research Jolene Tan said: "A majority of our clients do not report their experiences to the police." This is often out of fear they will not be believed or do not have enough evidence to back their accusations.

Lawyers also welcomed extending greater protection to sexual crime victims by reducing the stress of court processes on them. Mr Rajan Supramaniam said: "Sometimes, victims may break down during cross-examination and this could lead to psychological harm in the long run."

Ms Tan Bee Keow, director of youth service at the Singapore Children's Society, said re-telling an assault experience could be traumatising, especially if interviews by different parties take place over time.

She said she was heartened that the authorities are studying multidisciplinary interviewing models for children who have been sexually abused by a family member. "Different professionals look for different information, but this may overlap," she said. "If everyone can come together... and guide the victims by their various fields of expertise, that would help."

Seow Bei Yi


This article was first published on Feb 18, 2017.
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