Taking the MRT in Singapore may not be as safe as you think, especially if you’re a woman.
I was a fairly naive 22-year- old, living in New York, riding home on a very crowded subway train after a very long day of work. It took me a while to realise what was happening; that the man behind me had lifted up my skirt and was trying to stick his penis up under it to rub on me. When I grasped the situation, I freaked out. I mean, I really freaked.
“You are sick! What is wrong with you?” I screamed. “Why are you trying to put your penis up my skirt!?”
The entire train looked at the man for the full twenty seconds we had before the train stopped, but not one person moved to help me. I still remember his smirk as he turned to exit, running away from the train. That was in the days before video cameras and phones, with no effective way to tell the police what he looked like. Guess what?
Nothing happened to him. Nothing.
Me? I can still remember how icky I felt, walking home from the train station that night – and how reluctant I was to take the train again. For years, I thought I was alone, that I was the only unlucky one with a horrible experience like this, but sadly, I am not. Here in Singapore, they call such cases of molestation “Outrage of Modesty”. It can be anything from a man rubbing against you inappropriately to him taking invasive photos. Or worse. While overall crime in Singapore is down and the country is still one of the safest in the world, these outrage of modesty cases have spiked 22 percent, totalling 1,566 cases. There are a third more cases at nightspots and a whopping 60.5 percent jump of incidents on public transport. Now you know why you’ve noticed the public service announcements playing in the train stations.
So, what should you do if this happens to you? And what should you tell your daughter?
The Singapore police advise:
1. Be wary of strangers who approach you in crowded areas.
2. Stay close to your friends or move around in groups when in crowded places.
3. Be aware and alert of your surroundings. If someone stands exceptionally close to you, or if you suspect that you are being followed, remain calm and proceed to a crowded area or call the police for assistance.
4. Avoid taking short-cuts through dark and deserted places. Keep to well-lit areas where there are more people and traffic.
5. Do not enter the lift with a stranger. Let the stranger take the lift and wait for the next one.
6. Where possible, do not nap while travelling on public transport.
7. When coming home late at night, get someone to escort you home.
8. If you are molested, immediately shout for help or activate your shrill alarm. Take note of the description of the culprit, and the direction and mode of escape taken by the culprit. Call 999 as soon as it is safe to do so.
Singapore crime statistics for 2017:
Source: Singapore Police Force
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