News

Victims often told to keep quiet

They are sexually assaulted by their family members.

But when they tell their loved ones what has happened to them, they are warned not to tell anyone about their ordeal for the sake of maintaining "harmony" in the family.

Most experts contacted by The New Paper said such scenarios are not uncommon.

Because of this, there is a possibility that some cases of sexual assault here have gone unreported.

Commenting on yesterday's court case, Dr Carol Balhetchet, senior director for youth services at Singapore Children's Society, said the girl had been betrayed twice - once by her uncle who molested her and then by her aunt who told her to remain silent.

She added: "This poor girl, at just 18, felt she had to shoulder the responsibility of keeping peace in the family.

"The aunt should have done what's right and told the police what her husband had done."

Agreeing, counsellor John Vasavan said: "The aunt shouldn't be harbouring a sexual predator in her home. The man might think he can get away with molesting his family members and target others."

Mr Willy Ho, lead counsellor and founder of The Counselling Paradigm, said besides their family members, victims of sexual assault could also talk to people they trust, such as their teachers and close friends.

These people should then inform the police, he said.

TRUST

Dr Balhetchet added that the victims should also go for counselling.

She said: "They often feel worthless and have difficulty trusting others. For instance, girls may end up avoiding all men. Victims of sexual assault need help to get over their ordeal."

Gender equality advocacy group Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) said sexual assault is never the victim's fault.

Aware advised victims of sexual assault or rape to call its sexual assault care centre for counselling or legal advice.