Singapore

Local blogger stands up against cyber sexual harassment of women

This article is more than 12 months old

Local blogger Brenda Tan, 22, is taking a stand against online sexual predators.

These users frequent social media websites Tumblr and Twitter, as well as messaging platform Telegram. They typically share upskirt pictures, superimpose other people's faces onto nude bodies, or post innocuous photos of women with sexual captions.

Ms Tan is posting links of such Tumblr pages on her blog and encouraging her followers to report them to Tumblr so they can be taken down.

She also details the required evidence to file a police report as well as the contacts of pro bono lawyers who are willing to defend victims for free.

Ms Tan told The New Paper: "This (upskirt photo situation) has been going on for years, and I think it is time to address it. I have received more than 300 messages of gratitude on Instagram since I started this project.

"There is such a victim-shaming culture in Singapore that girls are often afraid to come forward about such offences."

Ms Tan said she often catches men taking photos of her or sitting too close to her on public transport.

"Men feel they are entitled to women's bodies and pictures, and we are not really taught these things in school. We just get some vague warnings about molestation," she said.

Ms Tan said she knew of a woman who was celebrating her 21st birthday when a party guest installed a camera in her bathroom. A video of her showering was later uploaded online.

Victims of online sexual harassment also told Ms Tan when they approached the blog owners to take down their pictures, the owners asked for their nude photos instead.

Findings from the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) show that one in five cases seen by its Support Services and Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) in 2016 involved a component of technology. These included revenge pornography and non-consensual distribution of intimate images.

Almost half of the 60 cases reported to Aware involved image-based sexual abuse or harassment.

Ms Anisha Joseph, head of SACC and Support Services, said society should not expect women to withdraw from technology or online activities to avoid sexual violence.

The social and psychological harm of online violence and harassment must be taken seriously, and more awareness and public education are needed on respecting consent and autonomy, she added.

"The law should effectively safeguard survivors' rights in online spaces as well as offline ones. We hope the authorities will consider stronger and quicker remedies beyond protection orders, especially given the time-sensitive nature of some cyber sexual crimes."

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