Molest can trouble victims for years

SINGAPORE - Miss Yusoff remembers it clearly, even though the molest happened more than five years ago.

The old man had sat beside her in the crowded bus.

But he kept inching closer to her until it felt like he was almost pressing her against the window.

And that's when Ms Yusoff, 46, felt his hand rubbing against her thigh.

Ms Yusoff immediately glared and shouted: "Excuse me, what do you think you are doing?"

Without apologising, the man alighted at the next bus stop, Ms Yusoff recalls, giggling at her brief moment of bravado.

But not all molest victims react the same way, says Ms Corinna Lim, executive director of the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

"Even after five years, and in some cases, 10 years, if you don't deal with the trauma of being sexually assaulted, it could trouble you," says Ms Lim.

"We want to let victims know they do not need to suffer in silence."

The police say the majority of molest cases here take place at "common areas of HDB blocks and at crowded areas, such as on MRT trains and buses".

A police spokesman says: "The bulk of the culprits arrested for outrage of modesty were aged 20 to 29 years, while the victims were also mostly within this same age range."

Last year, there were 1,396 outrage of modesty cases reported to the police - a slight dip from the previous year when the figure was 1,415.

In 2009, there were 1,273 molest cases.

Whether this is an accurate portrayal of reality is not known because some women like Ms Yusoff did not lodge any police reports.

Police say that in the majority of molest cases, the culprits were not known to the victims.

The majority of women who contact Aware, via its Sexual Assault Befrienders Service (Sabs) launched last November, say they know their attackers.

Sabs is a support service for survivors of sexual assault, including rape, molest and abusive relationships.

In the first half of this year, 37 women had called the Sabs helpline.

Adds Ms Lim: "The victims are usually torn and unsure about what to do next because their attackers are people that they know."

These can be friends, relatives or colleagues.

"The outcome of such abuse often leads to feelings of guilt, confusion and worry," adds Ms Lim.

"Some hesitate to lodge police reports because they worry that their reputation would be tarnished if word leaks out they were molested.

"What's important is for victims to know that there are options. What happened to them wasn't their fault."

Call Sabs at 6779-0282, Mondays to Fridays, 10am to 9.30pm.

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