30 run to support sexual-violence survivors

Ms McFarlane (right) completed about 16km here as part of her global campaign, Footsteps To Inspire.
Ms McFarlane (right) completed about 16km here as part of her global campaign, Footsteps To Inspire.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Rape survivor Claire McFarlane leads beach run in Singapore leg of 184-country tour

It rained on and off. Despite the drizzle, about 30 people ran at East Coast Park yesterday morning in support of sexual-violence survivors.

They were led by Ms Claire McFarlane, 38, who completed about 16km in Singapore as part of her global campaign, Footsteps To Inspire.

The project - said to be the first of its kind - will see her running a total of 3,000km on the beaches across 184 countries to raise awareness for survivors of sexual violence. She started on July 18 last year, and Singapore is her 13th country.

Before the run started, Ms McFarlane, who holds both South African and Australian citizenships, told participants that the 16km route symbolises her 16-year ordeal in bringing her rapist to justice.

In 1999, she was raped on the streets of Paris, France.

The run kicked off at about 7.50am along the shores of East Coast Park's Angsana Green. Participants comprised regular runners from local body-image movement Rock The Naked Truth, who helped organise the run, and members of the public. The event comes amid a recent spotlight on making the legal process in Singapore more supportive for rape survivors.

Two weeks ago, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said he had asked officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Law Ministry to "look into the legal process and to consider changes in the way investigations and trials are conducted when women are the alleged victims".

Currently, if a female rape survivor goes to the hospital for a "rape kit" - a medical examination to assess injuries and preserve DNA evidence against the rapist - she needs to file a police report first.

Ms Jolene Tan, Aware's head of advocacy and research, said: "The requirement for a police report to do the rape kit can be burdensome for survivors because it can increase the number of steps needed and the waiting time before the rape kit can be done.

Some progress has been made. In January, MHA set up a One-Stop Abuse Forensic Examination Centre at the Police Cantonment Complex. It can handle medical and forensic examination of adult rape survivors, negating the need for them to travel separately to hospital.

Said Ms Tan: "We hope to see more such integrated experiences for survivors in the future."

Yesterday at East Coast Park, Ms Ridhima Jain, 31, completed 5km in support of the cause.

"I feel passionately for this issue because such cases are common where I am from, and not many people stand up to talk about it," said Ms Ridhima, an Indian national who has lived in Singapore for about a year. "I knew I had to be here and nothing, not even the rain, would stop me."

Australian High Commissioner to Singapore Bruce Gosper and Aware executive director Corinna Lim were also present.

• 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

ST speaks to Claire McFarlane http://str.sg/4nvM

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 05, 2017, with the headline '30 run to support sexual-violence survivors'. Print Edition | Subscribe