Moves by NUS to enhance support for victims, address issue on sexual misconduct welcomed

NUS undergraduate Monica Baey's Instagram posts in April had sparked a discussion about disciplinary processes in universities and how sexual misconduct cases are handled.
NUS undergraduate Monica Baey's Instagram posts in April had sparked a discussion about disciplinary processes in universities and how sexual misconduct cases are handled.PHOTO: ST FILE

Victims of sexual misconduct cases at the National University of Singapore (NUS) will be kept up to date on disciplinary proceedings.

They will also have an avenue to ask for a review of the case outcome in "exceptional circumstances", said Madam Kay Kuok, who chairs the committee reviewing the university's disciplinary processes.

The victims can also file a statement of facts before the Board of Discipline hearing, and an impact statement that describes their pain.

Should they have to appear before the Board of Discipline to provide clarifications on their statement, they will be accompanied by a care officer.

These are among several changes to the disciplinary processes that were e-mailed yesterday to students, staff and alumni by Madam Kuok, a member of the NUS Board of Trustees. They are to address complaints of NUS' lack of support for victims and its impersonal approach in communicating with them - shortcomings highlighted by NUS undergraduate Monica Baey, 23, a voyeurism victim, at a townhall meeting held by NUS in April.

Later, Ms Baey recounted to The Straits Times how she got a call from NUS informing her that her written statement of fact about the incident had come in too late. The university told her it had already decided on the punishment for the offender.

"There was no transparency in how they had arrived at that decision," Ms Baey had said.

NUS subsequently set up a Victim Care Unit and improved campus security.

Yesterday, Madam Kuok also noted that actions had been undertaken by the university to boost victim support and campus safety.

Ms Corinna Lim, executive director of the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), said NUS had consulted Aware about its policy changes on sexual misconduct, adding that the proposed processes were "strongly welcomed".

"Victim support is not a separate activity in its own silo, but rather, requires a basic understanding of sexual violence," she said, adding that everyone in the university should also know how to help the victims.

NUS will launch a module on respect and consent in the new academic year starting in August. It will be compulsory for all students and staff.

 
 

Aware is also working with NUS to develop a training programme to teach first responders how to communicate with and help victims.

Ms Lim said: "Effective change must go beyond monitoring, enforcement and punishment. A true cultural shift is an ongoing process... The fact is that sexual violence happens in all settings and at all levels of our society, not just on campus, and we need to keep addressing its root causes."

Ms Lune Loh, a 22-year-old student from NUS' Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, who last month attended a feedback session as a representative for Tembusu College, said: "Harsh penalties may help to prevent more instances of sexual misconduct, but more importantly, people need to understand sexual respect and consent, and learn to respect each other's boundaries."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2019, with the headline 'Moves to enhance support for victims, address issue welcomed'. Print Edition | Subscribe