Singapore

More men are reporting being molested

Under-reporting remains an issue, say experts, partly due to legal barriers

At the age of 16, Christopher (not his real name) got to know an older man online who claimed to be around his age and studying in a good school.

The man initiated conversation with him on a website known to the gay community here and they started chatting.

But soon, the man told Christopher he was working "undercover" for the authorities to track down homosexual men and threatened legal action unless the teenager agreed to a "probation programme".

When they met in the man's "office" - an HDB flat - for a session, the man blindfolded him as part of the "sexual therapy" that he had to undergo, and violated him sexually.

More men are reporting being molested, continuing a rising trend in recent years, though experts flag that under-reporting remains a probability for sexual crimes, in part because of legal barriers.

Last year, 116 men were victims of molestation, about 1.5 times the 74 cases in 2010. Close to 80 per cent of victims last year were aged 21 and below.

This comes as the total number of molestation victims rose to 1,672 last year, from 1,511 in 2010.

"I would tremble whenever I saw his name or saw someone that looked similar to him. But I had no one I could share this issue with because of the sensitive information it involved," Christopher, now 24, added, referring to his sexual orientation and strong sense of guilt.

Having trouble coping, Christopher said in an e-mail interview that he sought help from a psychiatrist and later, the Association of Women for Action and Research's Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC).

The SACC itself has seen a rising number of sexual assault cases involving male victims.

In the first half of this year alone, there were 12 cases, compared with 15 for the whole of last year and 13 in 2016.

Where the details were known to SACC, almost nine in 10 of the male victims knew the perpetrators, who included relatives and intimate partners.

LEGAL BARRIERS

In 80 per cent of these cases, the perpetrators were men. This is consistent with national trends. Of the 975 people arrested last year for molestation, all but 11 were men.

Institute of Mental Health senior clinical psychologist Kenny Liew pointed out that under-reporting remains a major issue.

This is partially due to legal barriers, said Ms Anisha Joseph, who heads SACC.

"Rape is narrowly defined under the current Penal Code where only women can be victims," she said.

"We hope that this will soon change with the Penal Code Review Committee's recent recommendation to make (it) a gender-neutral offence."

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