Forum: People’s choice of clothing does not give others the right to assault them

As I read accounts on social media by women who said they experienced victim-blaming after being sexually assaulted, I remembered a recent conversation I had had with my sister. She said her teacher had told her and her teammates to wear their skirts over their PE attire before they left school after their co-curricular activity sessions.

I was puzzled over the need to do this in Singapore’s sweltering climate. The reason her teacher gave was it would prevent people from staring at their thighs while in their PE shorts. I felt uncomfortable on hearing this.

Certainly, underlying the message was concern for the safety of female students. However, the connotation was that female students should be responsible for their safety by covering up.

What I felt the teacher could have done better was to also emphasise that regardless of what they were wearing, no one had the right to do anything to them.

An exhibit put up by the Dove Centre in the United States titled What Were You Wearing? shows how someone’s choice of clothes is irrelevant when it comes to sexual assault. We can do so much more in schools than to perpetuate this narrative that clothing choice is relevant in preventing sexual assault.

That being said, I understand that students are expected to dress appropriately for school activities, and students who do not comply with the dress code should be taken to task.

Instead of focusing our attention on getting young girls to cover up, as a society, we can do better by educating everyone that people’s choice of clothing does not give others the right to sexually assault them.

Let’s stop propagating the mindset that modesty on its own will prevent sexual crimes, especially among teens in their formative years.

Amanda Ng Chien Yi

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.