An upskirt victim and her fears

An upskirt victim and her fears
PHOTO: The Straits Times

THE thing about upskirt videos and pictures is that you often read about the remorse of the offender after he is caught and dealt with in court.

But rarely do you understand what it does to the victims, like Michelle*.

In 2012, while the Singaporean undergraduate was in Kuala Lumpur, 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 (TNP) recently.

In Singapore, there are thousands of victims like her. Upskirt offences seem to be particularly prevalent here.

There were 28 upskirt cases in 2004. Police told TNP that the number of insulting 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 one's modesty.

Offenders taken to court have been found to have dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of pictures and videos on their computers and mobile phones.

The worst case so far is that of 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 over 40,000 posts on upskirt photos.

There are at least another dozen porn websites that prominently feature women in Singapore. Some sites offer to sell upskirt videos online at a dollar a video, with discounts if bought in bulk.

One site sells 2.5GB of voyeuristic videos for $40.

Even if there is 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.

On some sites, tags are used to indicate where the victims are from or where the photos were taken.

Like other upskirt victims, Michelle fears that her pictures could be among those being circulated or sold online.

She was visiting her parents in Kuala Lumpur during the school holidays, and she and her mother had gone 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 became separated from her mother as they were searching for different herbs.

Said Michelle, who works in public relations now: "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 have said during police investigations. In court papers, victims say 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".

Under the Films Act, anyone making or reproducing obscene films can be fined up to $40,000 and jailed for up to two years. For distributing obscene films, a person can be fined up to $80,000 and jailed for up to a year.

A person found to possess obscene films can be fined up to $20,000 and jailed for up to six months.

*We have amended the victim's name at her request.

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