The thing about upskirt videos and pictures is that you often read about the remorse of the pervert after he is caught and dealt with in court.
But rarely do you understand what it does to the victims, like Michelle (not her real name).
In 2012, while the Singaporean undergraduate was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a man snapped an upskirt picture of her.
He was so brazen that he just placed his phone camera under her skirt and took the picture, never mind that they were in a public place.
"I never felt more violated or helpless in my life," Michelle, 25, told The New Paper recently.
In Singapore, there are thousands of victims like her. Upskirt offenders seem to be particularly prevalent here.
The perverts taken to court have been found to have dozens, if not hundreds and thousands, of pictures and videos on their computers and mobile phones.
The worst case so far is an undergraduate who had nearly 2,000 voyeuristic videos.
In an online check, TNP found more than 100,000 upskirt pictures and videos of women in Singapore circulating on pornographic websites and online forums.
A popular local sex forum which was recently linked to two court cases, one of which involved upskirt photos, hosts 1,800 threads with 40,000-plus posts on upskirt photos.
There are at least another dozen porn websites that prominently feature women in Singapore. Some sites offer to sell the upskirt videos online at a dollar a video, with discounts if bought in bulk.
One site sells a 2.5GB bulk of voyeuristic videos for $40.
Even if there were more than one picture or video for each victim, the sheer number of them online indicates that tens of thousands of women in Singapore could have fallen victim to upskirt perverts.
In some sites, tags are used to indicate where the victims are from or where the photos were taken, such as "RJC upskirt" or "SG MRT upskirt with face".
Like other upskirt victims, Michelle fears that her pictures could be among those circulating or sold online.
She was visiting her parents in Kuala Lumpur during the school holidays when she and her mother went into a Chinese medical shop.
The bubbly young woman turned melancholic when she related the degrading experience.
"When I walked into the shop, I heard a clicking sound. I turned around and saw a group of men, one holding a camera phone pointed at me."
She walked further into the shop, thinking the men would not follow her. She was separated momentarily from her mother as they were searching for different herbs.
Michelle said: "As I was reaching for something on a high shelf, I looked down and spotted a hand holding the same camera phone between my feet.
"But before I could react, the man ran out of the shop and disappeared."
Her immediate reaction was not of anger but of intense embarrassment.
But she did not report the incident to the police.
"I've heard of cases where the police either can't help the victim or won't help the victim," she said.
To this day, she is still conscious about how she dresses.
"Initially, I was embarrassed but now I just feel angry when I see this injustice happening to other women.
"It is humiliating to have my modesty peddled by perverts," she said.
She felt "violated" and found it "disgusting" that such videos are being traded in online communities.
Her sentiments echo what other victims had said during police investigations. In court papers, victims said that paranoia and worry usually set in as they fret over their pictures potentially appearing online.
One upskirt victim, a 24-year-old sales assistant, said that when a voyeur took an upskirt video of her in 2012, "the only thought in my head was where will those pictures end up?".
"Sometimes, I find myself surfing the web to see if my pictures are online."
Insulting of modesty cases up
District Judge Mathew Joseph had strong words when sentencing two undergraduates to a prison term for filming and then uploading upskirt pictures and videos on a forum.
He called the forum "a thriving community of like-minded and depraved individuals... commenting on each other's perverse handiwork".
Thriving? How bad is it?
There were 28 upskirt cases in 2004.
The police told The New Paper the number of insulting of modesty cases from 2012 to 2014 was 621, 571 and 629, respectively.
The act of filming upskirt videos and similar acts of voyeurism are classified as insulting modesty.
The most common method employed by perpetrators is to use a mobile phone camera and hold it under the skirt of a victim.
And based on pictures online, it usually happens on escalators in shopping malls and train stations - places where it is not unusual for people to stand close to each other.
But others place their phones in a bag with a small hole which is then left on the ground, with the phone camera facing up.
One taxi driver even used a pen with a hidden camera in 2009 to take videos of women as they sat in his taxi.
Some perpetrators use pinhole cameras installed in watches and remote control car keys, items that are not unusual for people to carry in their hand.
Under the Films Act, anyone making or reproducing obscene films can be fined up to $40,000 and jailed up to two years.
For distributing obscene films, a person can be fined up to $80,000 and jailed up to a year.
A person found to possess obscene films can be fined up to $20,000 and jailed up to six months.
But even with these penalties, it appears the scourge will continue.
Upskirters who got jail
Sng Qi Zhi (above), 26, was sentenced to 36 weeks' jail in June after being caught with videos of women showering, and also upskirt photos of women at Bugis Junction.
He had 1,888 upskirt videos.
A month later, District Judge Mathew Joseph sentenced Lee Yi Jie, 21, and Patrick Sim Yuan Xing, 20, to 12 weeks' jail for filming upskirt videos and uploading the clips onto a website.
A 32-year-old former bank executive was sentenced to eight weeks' jail in March for using his mobile phone to record videos of women's inner thighs and panties.
He had filmed 94 upskirt videos over four years.
A 51-year-old engineer was jailed for three weeks last year for taking an upskirt video of a woman.
He is married and has two sons aged 17 and 20.
This article was first published on July 21, 2015.
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