Student wants firm action from NUS after man who filmed her in hostel shower goes 'scot-free'

PHOTO: Instagram/Monica Baey

An undergraduate from Singapore's National University of Singapore (NUS) has taken to social media to publicise a peeping Tom incident at her hostel, asking for "real change" in how authorities tackle acts that violate women.

Monica Baey, 23, a third-year communications major, said she was taking a late-night shower in her hostel bathroom last November when she saw a mobile phone peeking from below the cubicle door.

Before she could react, the phone disappeared and she heard whoever it was filming her dash out of the bathroom at NUS' Eusoff Hall.

Baey, in a series of posts on Instagram stories that had been viewed 15,000 times as of Friday evening, said she had made a police report. The university also submitted to authorities CCTV recordings that showed a man entering the toilet that night, and the video of Baey showering that was found on the man's phone.

After an investigation, police gave the man a 12-month conditional warning, something usually meted out to first-time offenders. It means that if they commit another crime, they would be charged for that and the earlier offence.

The university suspended the male student for a semester, banned him from entering campus residences and made him send Baey an apology letter.

The man also texted Baey and admitted he was under the "alcoholic influence " when he committed the act and was "thoroughly sorry", according to messages seen by the South China Morning Post.

But Baey said she thought the sanctions were insufficient and only served to keep the student away from others and from "the drama happening back in NUS".

Photo: Instagram/Monica Baey

"The point of [my post] is I want some real change in NUS … I want real consequences for perpetrators that commit such acts," she wrote.

Photo: Instagram/Monica Baey

When the Post spoke to her on Friday, she said a university staff member had explained its treatment of the perpetrator and that suspension was a serious matter. But Baey said she did not buy the explanation and the man's apology as "he got away scot-free, with just a slap on the wrist".

Photo: Instagram/Monica Baey

Baey, who is now in Taiwan as part of a school exchange programme, said she had fears of going to the toilet alone, pointing to how she had heard of other peeping Tom incidents with some victims afraid to report them.

"What I want is for NUS to address the number of these incidents that have occurred, negotiate a fair set of sanctions where the perpetrator is actually reprimanded, through expulsion, community service, re-education et cetera.

"I don't think I am in a place to demand that all perpetrators to get expelled from the school and that is not my goal either. But I would want to see NUS provide a set of visible consequences for anyone who commits any sexual misappropriation acts again," she said.

Criminal lawyer Kanagavijayan Nadarajan said insulting the modesty of a woman was a serious offence, but the police's treatment of the matter depended what was found on the recording.

"It could be that he didn't record [the incident] fully. In such cases, a warning is given. In all fairness to the victim, the victim can demand an explanation from the police as to why he was given a conditional warning."

Baey posted on Instagram that the investigation officer had told to go to the university if she wanted "more action to be taken".

The Post has reached out to the Singapore police and NUS for comments.

Undergraduate Adeline Tan of the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, said she had also heard of such incidents and felt there needed to be harsher punishments.

"The police and school need to do better. Action needs to be taken as illicit filming in hostel toilets have happened so many times," the 23-year-old communications major said.

Two similar incidents in Singapore universities in recent years targeted men and women, and were committed by serial voyeurs who faced police action.

Last year, local media reported that a 31-year-old man was sentenced to 38 weeks' jail for taking 23 videos of women showering at places, including NUS and NTU. In 2016, an NTU student was arrested after he was filming a hostel resident and 66 videos of men showering were found saved on his mobile phone.

Communications consultant Chong Yoke Ming, 26, and an NTU alumnus, said he had heard of similar incidents happening to his female friends.

"It is important for school authorities to take such incidents seriously and take the side of the victim, instead of attempting to play down the matter just to protect the school's reputation."

Baey called on universities to foster a more supportive environment for victims by discussing such issues more publicly. She said a handful of female undergraduates had reached out to her and thanked her for speaking up.

"A lot of victims are silent. They let it slide or did not pursue the matter," she said.

"At this point, I know if I don't speak up, I feel that no justice will come to me or all the other girls who have experienced similar trauma."

This article was first published on South China Morning Post.