Police roll out video on sex crime victims' trauma

Video will be shown as part of training so officers can reflect on how to better help victims

A new training video for police officers is being rolled out in stages - to help them understand the trauma of sexual crime survivors.

Made in collaboration with the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), the 10-minute clip shows victims narrating their experiences after interacting with officers who had handled their cases.

A psychologist then gives an assessment of the victims' state of mind, suggesting how to help such traumatised persons, a police spokesman told The Straits Times.

Over the past year, the Home Affairs Ministry announced several initiatives - including a one-stop examination centre to reduce the stress of reporting rape - to improve the investigation and court process for sexual crimes.

These followed a review made known in 2016, when Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam criticised lawyer Edmund Wong, who defended his client's molestation charge by focusing on the victim's breasts and attractiveness.

The new training video aims to create awareness of "the emotional trauma that victims feel", allowing officers to "reflect on how they can better handle a victim in distress", said the police.

Commenting on the training video when it was announced last year, Aware said misconceptions about sexual assault and a lack of understanding of victims' experiences could affect how one interacts with them. For example, there is a tendency to criticise victims for their clothing, appearance or active socialising.

"When we let these and similar misunderstandings about what the victim 'should' do affect how we talk to them and what we believe, this can discourage them from engaging further," Aware added.

Investigation officers (IOs) and front-line officers who interact with sexual crime victims will be the first group to have the video included as part of their training - starting today.

The video will then be progressively introduced in the training of all new officers and IOs.

Police said officers will also be trained on how to better conduct interviews with such victims.

Calling the roll-out a "step in the right direction", Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran said he hopes this will help victims step forward without fear of reliving their ordeal.

A 22-year-old student who, in 2016, decided not to lodge a police report after approaching an officer about a rape case, said she hopes the video can go some way in helping victims feel more reassured and respected.

The student, who is not named to protect her identity, had wanted to report that she was raped by her boyfriend in 2015.

The interview process left her with the impression that her chances of bringing the perpetrator to justice were low and made her fear she might not be believed or even get blamed for the incident. Looking back, she said: "If I had been treated differently... I would have gone through with the report."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2018, with the headline 'Police roll out video on sex crime victims' trauma'. Print Edition | Subscribe