SINGAPORE - A new centre in the Police Cantonment Complex will allow sexual crime victims to undergo forensic and medical examinations in a private facility, instead of being taken to a public hospital.
This was among initiatives announced by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), following a review of investigation and court procedures dealing with sexual crimes.
“One of the key issues is, of course, to encourage victims to come forward and make the whole experience something that doesn’t add to their trauma,” said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.
He added that processes should make it easy for victims to lodge a report and undergo examination.
The pilot One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination Centre (OneSafe) to serve adult rape victims was set up by the police with the Singapore General Hospital.
It will handle cases reported within 72 hours of assault where victims do not require other medical attention.
Each year, the police see an average of 150 rape cases and 1,200 to 1,300 cases of outrage of modesty. Most cases are reported after 72 hours of the alleged offence.
Police added that where possible, it will assign a female officer to interview women victims.
To sensitise officers to victims' experiences, police will develop a training video with the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), based on feedback of its sexual assault care centre clients. This is expected to be ready by the third quarter of this year, said MHA.
New measures will extend to court processes too.
MHA and the Law Ministry (MinLaw) will review the punishment for sexual offences, taking into consideration sentences imposed in past cases, said Mr Shanmugam.
MinLaw will strengthen laws and court processes to reduce stress on victims as well. This could include enhancing restrictions on cross-examination in court, and introducing new ways to protect victims' privacy.
The police and MinLaw are also working on an information pamphlet for victims, which will include care and support measures and legal procedures.
In addition, MHA and the Ministry of Social and Family Development are studying multi-disciplinary interviewing models for child abuse cases within the family.
This longer-term collaboration aims to reduce the need for victims to recount traumatic experiences repeatedly to different officers.
“In many cases, women are assaulted and the assaulter deserves to be punished seriously,” said Mr Shanmugam. But there are also cases where false accusations are made, and this is why rigorous trial processes are needed, he added. “Within that framework, how to make the trial process less intimidating, more accommodating for the victim, and also to make the process of cross-examination less vexatious for the victim – those are the things we are looking at."