Week's Top Letter #2: Don't punish victims for naming abusers

These important matters are now being given due consideration because the victim, undergraduate Monica Baey, had the courage to come forward with her story.
These important matters are now being given due consideration because the victim, undergraduate Monica Baey, had the courage to come forward with her story.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The case of voyeurism at the National University of Singapore (NUS) raises matters of public interest, such as how educational institutions should respond to sexual violations on campus (NUS to relook disciplinary processes after student's complaint, April 21).

These important matters are now being given due consideration because the victim, undergraduate Monica Baey, had the courage to come forward with her story.

However, a connection has been drawn by some between this case and the upcoming amendments to the Protection from Harassment Act. It has been suggested that Ms Baey's revelation of the alleged wrongdoer's identity could constitute illegal doxxing in the future.

On the contrary, it should not be illegal for a victim to name her abuser. As Professor David Tan from the NUS law faculty said, a big challenge lies in distinguishing between permissible online shaming and unlawful harassment.

Intention is the key, as it should be.

If an abuser's identity is revealed by a person with the clear intention of harassing him, then such a revelation should be unlawful.

But if the victim gives a full and true account of the wrongdoing without the intention to harass the abuser, such an account is perfectly reasonable and, surely, cannot be regarded as harassment.

Criminal laws and penalties should reflect the opinion of the public, and pay regard to what the public deems to be fair.

While I cannot speak for the public, I get the sense that forcing a victim to protect the identity of her abuser would be widely felt as unfair, and to punish a victim for her bravery in stepping forward would probably be regarded as an inversion of justice.

There is also public interest in the naming of abusers. It deters future potential abusers from engaging in harmful conduct, and it serves to protect vulnerable members of society from depredation by named abusers.

Abusers have the right to not be subjected to harassment and threats of violence. But abusers do not have the right to a good reputation when they have evidently done everything in their power to earn a bad one.

Victims should not be punished for naming their abusers.

Tay Xian Yong