More support for victims of sex offences
New facility will allow for medical examinations, police interviews and care support
More support will be given to victims of sexual crimes, the Home Affairs and Law Ministries announced yesterday.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam had revealed on Aug 6 last year that a review of existing police investigation and court processes dealing with sex crimes was in process.
He did so in a Facebook post where he criticised the actions of lawyer Edmund Wong, who had described a female molest victim as too attractive and focused on her breast size while defending his client against a molest charge.
Yesterday, the two ministries announced new initiatives at a press conference held at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) headquarters.
They include the police working with Singapore General Hospital (SGH) to set up the One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination Centre at the Police Cantonment Complex.
The centre, which began operations last month, will allow adult rape victims whose cases are reported within 72 hours to undergo a medical examination by SGH doctors, be interviewed by the police and receive emotional support from victim care officers.
One of the key issues is to encourage victims to come forward and make the whole experience something that does not add to their trauma.Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam
About 150 rape cases - most reported after 72 hours when significant medical evidence is difficult to gather - and 1,200 to 1,300 molest cases are reported each year.
Speaking at the press conference yesterday, Mr Shanmugam said: "One of the key issues is to encourage victims to come forward and make the whole experience something that does not add to their trauma.
"It makes it easy for them to report and makes it easy for them to undergo examination."
The police will also work with the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) to develop a training video based on experiences of those who have sought help at Aware's Sexual Assault Care Centre.
The video, which will be ready later this year, will complement police training to further educate and sensitise officers in dealing with victims during investigations.
The MHA is also working with the Ministry of Social and Family Development on multi-disciplinary interview models for cases of child abuse within a family so victims can avoid repeating their traumatic experiences to different officers.
The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) also said it is looking to strengthen the laws and court processes to reduce a victim's stress and trauma in court.
For example, it is considering enhancing rules to make cross-examinations by defence counsel more sensitive while still being fair to the accused.
MinLaw is also considering keeping the victim's identity hidden as soon as a report is made, mandating closed-door hearings when victims are testifying and allowing physical screens in court to shield the victim from the accused.
Organisations that deal with victims of sexual crimes welcomed the new initiatives.
Ms Tan Bee Keow, director of Singapore Children's Society Toa Payoh Youth Services Centre, said it was a step forward.
"With the one-stop centre, at least victims do not have to travel to multiple locations, stressing them further," she said.
In a statement, Aware welcomed the improvements and hoped they will help address the under-reporting and attrition of sexual assault and harassment cases.
In a 2014 survey of 500 people, it found that only 6 per cent of those who suffered sexual assault or harassment sought help.
Said Aware's head of advocacy and research Jolene Tan: "A victim-centric process is better for everyone.
"It better meets victims' needs, and it assists investigators by eliciting greater cooperation and confidence from victims, making it easier to find out the facts."