Running to help sex-assault victims

Ms McFarlane will run barefoot on the sand for 16km to represent her 16-year ordeal. Her project, Footsteps To Inspire, is entirely self-financed through raising funds, and one-third of what she raises in each country will go to local organisations t
Ms McFarlane will run barefoot on the sand for 16km to represent her 16-year ordeal. Her project, Footsteps To Inspire, is entirely self-financed through raising funds, and one-third of what she raises in each country will go to local organisations that help survivors of sexual violence.PHOTO: NICOLAS ANSERMET

Rape survivor to lead a run at East Coast Park today in Singapore leg of 184-country tour to raise awareness

People in Singapore did not believe Ms Claire McFarlane when she revealed how many people are sexually assaulted here.

"There tends to be a perception that rape is happening outside in other places and not necessarily so much here," said Ms McFarlane, 38, who survived a brutal rape in France when she was 21.

Each year, the police here see an average of 150 rape cases and 1,200 to 1,300 cases of outrage of modesty.

And last year, 338 people sought help from the Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) of advocacy group the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

Ms McFarlane said shame and silence haunt the survivors of sexual violence the world over.

  • 150

  • Average number of rape cases in Singapore each year.

  • 1,200- 1,300

  • Number of cases of outrage of modesty.

But she plans to raise awareness about the plight of survivors by leading a run at East Coast Park today at 7.15am.

She will run barefoot on the sand, because that was how she healed herself during the long struggle to bring her rapist to justice.

She will run 16km, which represents her 16-year ordeal.

In 1999, Ms McFarlane was left for dead after the sexual assault. The police did not catch her rapist until 10 years later.

He was convicted in 2011, but only served about four years of a 12-year jail sentence, and her civil suit ended unsuccessfully in October 2015.

Ms McFarlane, who holds both South African and Australian citizenships, said it was a "hard hit", but it inspired her to start Footsteps To Inspire, a project which will see her run on the beaches of 184 countries around the world.

She will also link up with local organisations in each country that help survivors of sexual violence. Singapore is her 13 th country.

Body image movement Rock The Naked Truth teamed up with her to organise today's run through its running arm, RockRunners. Founder Cheryl Tay, 30, saw similarities with her organisation's goals of helping people to gain self-esteem and heal.

Footsteps To Inspire is entirely self-financed through raising funds, and one-third of what Ms McFarlane raises in each country will go to local organisations that help survivors of sexual violence.

She plans to donate to Aware and charity Good Shepherd Sisters.

"My goal is being a voice and giving other survivors the courage to break their silence," she said.

On Monday, Ms McFarlane leaves Singapore for the Philippines.

•Survivors of sexual violence can call Aware's SACC on 6779-0282.

•Those who want to donate to Ms McFarlane's campaign can do so here: https://www.chuffed.org/project/footstepstoinspire-singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline 'Running to help sex-assault victims'. Print Edition | Subscribe