Blame molester, not the victim

Mr Benjamin Sim Buke Huang's suggestion of having a dress code in public places ("Mind how we dress in public"; last Saturday) appears to imply that women should dress modestly lest they invite unwanted attention.

From the standpoint of what is considered decorous or proper behaviour, surely molesting someone or subjecting someone to sexual harassment is far more offensive than wearing a pair of shorts in public.

Perhaps we should reconsider the lessons we teach our children - instead of policing the behaviour of others, we should always begin by correcting our own. Instead of telling our daughters - and sons - not to wear revealing clothes, we should teach them that sexual harassment of any sort is wrong.

Furthermore, people are not sexually harassed just because they dress provocatively. People across the world have been subjected to such crimes simply because they were unfortunate to be in the same place as a sexual predator.

I understand the good intentions behind Mr Sim's letter, but I am disappointed that he failed to chastise the perpetrator's actions, while seeming to imply that the victim could have avoided the encounter had she dressed more conservatively.

Sexual harassment, at its most basic, is an imposition of power that denies the victim consent. It can happen to anyone, young or old, regardless of race, gender or whatever they wear.

Not only is victim blaming harmful to the victim, but it also does nothing to address or remedy the wrongdoing.

If we are to be a society that upholds justice and equality, then we should not perpetuate ideas that blame, shame or implicate victims. In doing so, we absolve perpetrators of their due responsibility, and imply acceptance of such wrongdoings.

Sng Wei Wen (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 12, 2016, with the headline 'Blame molester, not the victim'. Print Edition | Subscribe