Aware to pilot two projects to help victims of image-based sexual abuse

The group launched the contest on Nov 25, 2019, after observing a rise in cases of sexual violence perpetuated through digital technology. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Gender equality advocacy group Aware will fund and pilot two projects that will help victims of image-based sexual abuse.

One project will develop an online platform with resources for such victims, while the second aims to evaluate existing measures and practices and make recommendations to best help victims.

Both projects were selected from 23 entries by community-based organisations in the Taking Ctrl, Finding Alt contest, organised by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

The group launched the contest on Nov 25 last year after observing a rise in cases of sexual violence perpetuated through digital technology. Reported cases almost tripled from 46 cases in 2016 to 124 cases in 2018.

These include cases of image-based sexual abuse, where private sexual images are created, attained or shared without a victim's consent.

Aware executive director Corinna Lim said on Tuesday (March 10): "With cases of image-based sexual abuse mounting at Aware's Sexual Assault Care Centre in recent years, we know that this particular type of sexual violence needs urgent attention and action."

The first project Aware has selected aims to address the lack of relevant, local information for victims of image-based sexual abuse.

The project is helmed by Ms Catherine Chang and Ms Holly Lynn Apsley, both 24 and researchers at the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities.

They are working alongside a group known as "Students for a Safer NUS", comprising undergraduates from the National University of Singapore who seek to provide community support for on-campus victims of sexual violence.

They plan to set up a resource website for victims, with information on how to take action against their perpetrators. This includes guidelines on making a request for the removal of their published images, and applying for a non-publication order that legally restricts the publication of these offensive images, particularly on digital media.

"Since the Internet is the first place many of us turn to when we need help, we felt that there was an urgent need for such a place online, where we could turn our latest research into a usable public resource," said the pair in a statement.

The second project will evaluate the current recourse available to the victims and make recommendations to improve the system and practices.

Led by Ms Lee Yi Ting, a 30-year-old freelance researcher, writer and security trainer, the research project will entail a series of structured interviews with victims to understand their experiences and the impact of their chosen recourse.

Both projects will receive funding of $3,840 and $4,800 respectively, and their leaders will be mentored for a pilot phase of six months this year. The projects will then be evaluated for their impact on Nov 25.

"The digital platforms on which these forms of sexual violence occurs often determine how it is addressed, but we need holistic, community-based solutions instead, which these young problem-solvers have identified," said Aware's Ms Lim.

"It's fantastic to see energetic young problem-solvers identifying these survivor-centric gaps in the landscape."

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