SINGAPORE - Belle (not her real name) was only 15 when a man molested her on a crowded train.
Now 18, she can still recall the incident with startling clarity.
She had been on her way to school aboard a crowded train during the morning rush hour when she felt a man rubbing his private parts against her rear.
"It was very crowded. There were so many people that it was difficult to move in or out of the train. It took some time before I realised what was happening," she recalls.
Unsure if the man's advances were accidental, she moved her bag to cover her rear.
But that did not deter the brazen molester, who shifted the bag away before continuing with his lewd behaviour.
This time, she spoke out: "I told him to stop touching me, but he just glared at me and said, 'Siao ah?' (Are you crazy?)"
It was as if it was her fault.
A fellow passenger who witnessed the molestation attempted to raise the alarm, but the man quickly alighted at the next station and fled.
Belle tearfully told her parents about the incident and even warned all her friends to be wary of the molester, but she did not report it.
Her story, unfortunately, may not be unique as many do not report these incidents to police.
In an informal poll of 50 women, 32 per cent said they felt they were touched inappropriately on public transport, but none of them made a report.
Many cite a fear of speaking up, lack of confidence that appropriate action can be taken, and uncertainty as to whether the encounter was deliberate, as reasons.
Belle is telling her story now so that more people will stand up against such behaviour.
Ms Wong, 40, a part-time administrative assistant, takes the train twice a week during peak hours and has experienced brushes from strangers several times. But unlike the younger women, she is not afraid to speak up.
"If there is inappropriate touching, I will press the emergency button and raise the alarm. I will not be bullied," she says.
Belle advises young girls to do the same: "If you are faced with the same situation as me, do not hesitate. Take action immediately and seek help."
This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.
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