1 in 5 sexual assault cases seen by Aware in 2016 involved use of technology

The recent increase in the number of upskirting cases also shows how sexual voyeurism has become common in public spaces, especially on public transport.
The recent increase in the number of upskirting cases also shows how sexual voyeurism has become common in public spaces, especially on public transport. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Sexual harassment or violence need not always be physical. For instance, a perpetrator could maliciously spread nude photos online of a former lover without consent.

At the same time, some victims have used cameras to record their injuries after they were sexually assaulted as evidence.

Nearly one in five sexual assault cases seen by gender equality group, the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), involved some form of technology to facilitate or exacerbate sexual violence or harassment, or to record sexual abuse or harm.

These cases could involve:

  • Victims meeting the perpetrators online such as through dating apps before they were sexually assaulted
  • Perpetrators sending intimate digital images or video clips of the victims to other people; issuing rape threats online to victims
  • Perpetrators using social media to apologise and justify to victims why they were sexually attacked
  • Victims recording the aftermath of the assault as evidence
  • Perpetrators confiscating victims' tech gadgets to prevent them from telling others they were abused.

Of the 338 cases that Aware's Sexual Assault Care Centre saw last year, 60 cases - or 18 per cent - involved technology.

The findings were released on Wednesday (Aug 30) and taken from a research report by Dr Laura Vitis, a criminology lecturer at the University of Liverpool, Singapore.

The research also found that nearly one in 10 of the sexual assault cases was an "image-based" form of sexual harassment, such as revenge pornography or the recording of intimate images for voyeuristic reasons.

Ms Anisha Joseph, manager of the Sexual Assault Care Centre, said: "Disturbingly, some perpetrators also profited off these images, for example, by exchanging them to pay off a debt or selling them online.

"This shows that there is a market for such non-consensually obtained nude images of women within Singapore."

The recent increase in the number of upskirting cases also shows how sexual voyeurism has become common in public spaces, especially on public transport, said Aware.

"Sexual harassment or threats in online spaces or through technology are wrongly thought to be less 'real', compared with physical contact," Ms Anisha said.

"But technology is a big part of how we work and live - we cannot expect women to withdraw from online activities to avoid sexual violence, we must take the social and psychological harm of online violence and harassment seriously."