Rise in sex crimes over past 5 years: State Courts

Increase might not indicate worsening problem but that more victims are coming forward to make reports: Experts


More sexual crime cases were filed in the State Courts last year compared with five years ago, but that is not necessarily an indication of a worsening problem.

Ms Anisha Joseph, manager of the Sexual Assault Care Centre at the Association of Women for Action and Research, said the rise in sexual offence numbers signals that more people are not afraid to make a report, and have faith in the criminal justice system.

The number of sexual crimes hit a high in 2015, according to State Courts data. Last year, 233 cases were filed in the State Courts, compared to 218 cases filed in 2012 and 164 cases in 2011.

There were 272 cases in 2015.

These cases involved sexual assault by penetration, sexual grooming of a minor under 16, outrage of modesty or rape.

In February, the Home Affairs Ministry announced several initiatives to encourage people to report if they have been victims of sexual crimes. Among them was a new one-stop centre for those reporting a rape that had occurred in the past 72 hours.

Instead of travelling to a public hospital for a medical examination, victims who lodge a report can be medically examined at the victim care centre.

The Law Ministry is also looking at how to reduce stress faced by victims during court proceedings.

Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam had said that a key issue was to encourage victims to report a sexual assault.

Meanwhile, of the cases that ended up in court, 190 led to convictions last year, up from 146 in 2012 and 105 in 2011.

The High Court, which heard 16 cases of sexual offences such as rape and sexual assault by penetration last year, saw 11 convictions. In 2012, there were six rape cases filed.

Experts said that in many instances, the perpetrators were known to the victims.

Clinical psychologist Jeanie Chu said a contributing factor to sexual crime could be social media, including dating apps, and the easy access to sexual content online.

"(Easy access to content) could trigger sexual predators to want to commit such acts. With dating apps, there is also more accessibility to meeting new people," said Ms Chu, who works at the Resilienz Clinic.

Recent news reports have sparked concerns over sexual crimes.

Last month, a 39-year-old American mixed martial arts instructor was sentenced to four years in jail for making obscene films and having consensual sex with two 15- year-old girls he befriended on social networking sites.

He also possessed 321 films containing child pornography with children as young as two years old.

It is believed to be the largest number of such films seized from a single person here.

While experts laud the attempts to get victims to report sexual crimes, they said that challenges remain.

For instance, victims tend to be less willing to report an assault in cases where the perpetrator is known to them , said experts.

"The extent and intensity of impact (of the assault) depend on factors such as the nature and severity of the incident," said Ms Chu.

"But it also depends on the support (that the victims) receive thereafter. The impact is likely to be less if they receive support from family members as well as professionals."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2017, with the headline Rise in sex crimes over past 5 years: State Courts. Subscribe