PHOTO: Instagram/jaylenehwl

At 21, Jaylene Hong was allegedly raped by a former colleague when she was drunk. 

Having blacked out during the assault which occurred in her own home, this Singaporean said she couldn’t remember a huge piece of that night.

“I woke up feeling pain in the female [region],” she recounted to AsiaOne. “I called the attacker and all he could say was he loves me. I couldn’t process the information.” 

Traumatised and confused, Hong, a virgin then, ran away from home for months, seeking refuge in relatives’ and friends’ houses. This attack took place in 2012.

“I couldn’t stand my house [where the attack took place],” she said. “Every single night after that, I’ll wake up screaming.”

She wasn’t close to her family members – her father and two brothers – then. Her father was separated from her mother. 

“A lot of people don’t know what to do, myself included. [They] don’t dare to speak up [as] they don’t know what will happen to the attacker and the victim… That’s what’s stopping victims, they just want to avoid the issue,” said Hong. “I didn’t know what rights I had… Not calling the police [then] has been my regret.”

Eyes staring at you in court

When Hong finally confided in her father a few months later, he said he’ll support her wholeheartedly if she decides to make a police report and go to court to testify against the attacker. 

However, he cautioned her that there’ll be many eyes staring at her in court, including the public, lawyers and the press, she said. 

“The problem [was] my dad only emphasised on the negative outcomes… He described that [in] court, I will [be] questioned by the defence [lawyers] who will belittle me,” Hong added. “I didn’t know the whole process and in just two minutes, I said no [to making a police report].”

Worried about the court process and the potential loss of privacy, Hong decided not to pursue the matter.

She didn’t know that the Singapore courts can allow sexual assault victims to testify in camera (behind closed doors) so that they do not have to recount their ordeal under the glare of public scrutiny. 

To protect the identities of victims of sexual crimes, gag orders are issued by the Singapore courts to protect them from embarrassment or public scrutiny as a result of the court proceedings.

Hong also thought she had waited too long after the attack to make a police report.

However, sexual assault victims like her can make a police report any time after the incident, no matter how long it has been, according to information on Aware’s Sexual Assault Care Centre website.

Hong, a content creator, thinks more can be done to educate the public about the police and court processes in the event of a sexual assault. 

For example, this mother of four feels her children, aged four to 11, are not sufficiently educated in school about sexual attacks and the consequences.

“I think education [about these things] should start from young…. for the police to share information with kids on how to react [after a sexual assault], their rights… When something is discussed more, people will be more open to deal with it,” said Hong, who is married.  

Sexuality education is currently conducted in schools from primary five onwards, covering areas such as human development, sexual health and behaviour.

(Read also “Lady Gaga Reveals She Was Pregnant After Sexual Assault At Age 19“)

Sexual assault victims getting more support

Hong, now 31, will be glad to know that victims of sexual crimes like her will now get even more support from the authorities.

The police is taking very active steps to increase public awareness about sexual assault and what victims can do, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam last month, which was Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The police, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, have been engaging educational institutions to raise awareness about sexual offences, he added. 

(Read also “How Celebrity Parents Like Chen Xiuhuan And Darren Lim Approach Sex Education“)

He also pointed out that sexual crimes have been on the rise.

In 2020, the Serious Sexual Crime Branch (SSCB) of the Criminal Investigation Department handled 348 rape cases, compared to 281 cases in 2019 and 213 in 2018, reported the Straits Times last September. 

Every year, hundreds of rape cases are reported to the SSCB and in most of them, the men accused were known to the victims.

Come 2023, a new command, which aims to provide victims of sexual crime and family violence with more support, will be set up. 

Creating a safe space

When handling sexual crime cases, the police today takes a victim-centric approach to support these individuals.

For example, Investigation Officers (IO) with the SSCB which handles serious sexual offences like rape, are specially trained to engage with victims of sexual crimes, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) website.

“That’s one of the first things we note – the victim’s sense of safety and state of mind,” said Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Joyce Lau, an IO with the SSCB. “It’s important to allow the victim time and space to collect her emotions and thoughts.” 

Once a case of sexual crime has been reported, officers will seek to ensure the victim’s well-being. 

Some of these police initiatives include: 

  • Assigning victims to specially-trained Victim Care Officers to receive emotional and practical support during the criminal justice process.
  • To allow victims to undergo the necessary forensic and medical examinations in a private, safe and comfortable environment, the One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination Centre (OneSafe) was set up in 2017. This is because these victims are probably already under plenty of stress, the physical environment they are placed in does play a part in helping them ease that load, said MHA.
  • Images of the waiting room of the centre (below) reveal a welcoming, spacious room with comfortable sofas, potted plants and wide windows.
The OneSAFE Centre. PHOTO: Ministry of Home Affairs
  • If a victim needs a temporary shelter, the OneSAFE Centre also has cosy victim care rooms equipped with personal necessities and beds with clean sheets.
Victim care rooms. PHOTO: The Straits Times 
  • Younger victims are not forgotten either with dedicated children interview rooms with toys and other items to make them feel more at ease.
  • Here, there are also anatomical dolls, which can be used to facilitate expression or demonstration with children who have trouble verbalising what happened during the abuse.
The children’s interview room. PHOTO: The Straits Times 
  • For younger victims who have been assaulted by family members, IOs can activate the One-Stop Centre Multi-Disciplinary Interview process, to be conducted at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
  • SPF will also coordinate interviews with the Ministry of Social and Family Development and other medical professionals to reduce the number of times the victim has to recount the incident.

For Hong, she has already put the episode behind her and has since moved on with her life. 

She had confronted her attacker after the incident but his wife had begged her to let him go on account of their young son.

“I didn’t have the courage to speak up [then],” she added. “Thinking back, I really shouldn’t have [not made the police report], he could have done it to someone else again.”

HELPLINES:

  • Police: Call 999 if you require immediate assistance or visit the nearest Neighbourhood Police Centre to speak to a police officer. Your identity will be protected.
  • Samaritans of Singapore (SOS): 1-767 (24-hour)
  • National Care Hotline: 1800 202 6868 
  • Aware’s Sexual Assault Care Centre6779 0282 
  • Tinkle Friend (for children)1800 274 4788 

This article was first published in AsiaOne.