Police to review crime talks after 'victim-shaming' concerns

Police have engaged with parents and a school over the way the force delivers its crime-prevention talks - particularly in addressing the issue of sexual assault.

This is after concerns arose when a police officer told female students during a school talk on Monday to be mindful of their attire, lest they attract unwanted attention.

The crime-prevention talk at the School of the Arts was for Secondary 2 students.

"Arising from feedback received, police have clarified the matter with relevant parties," said a police spokesman.

Some students interpreted the male officer's remarks as a form of victim-shaming that holds the girl responsible over her attire that may have provoked the perpetrator into sexually assaulting her.

At least two parents aired their concerns on social media.

One of them, television actress and drama instructor Eleanor Tan, 40, told The Straits Times that the police contacted another parent, and told her they will look at improving the way they conduct such talks.

"The police officer may have had good intentions, but he delivered his warnings on crime prevention through a haze of outdated sexist notions and victim-blaming assumptions," she said, adding that it left some of the students upset.

Another parent, voice and presentation coach Petrina Kow, 40, posted on Facebook: "I have highlighted to (the police) my deeper concerns and what gives me hope is that they are really pro-active and eager to improve and receive feedback.

"I do not walk away from this incident outraged... I am still cautiously aware of the long journey ahead to break these deeply held, misguided and ultimately dangerous notions of 'inviting crime'."

Aware Singapore shared the posts, saying: "One in three young people in Singapore (has) faced sexual violence - and messages like these do nothing for their recovery, and reinforce dangerous myths about sexual assault that prevent survivors from seeking help."

The episode follows that of a lawyer who defended his client's molestation charge by focusing on the victim's breasts. Law Minister K. Shanmugam later chided the lawyer, saying the "theory that only attractive women get molested" is not taught in law school.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline 'Police to review crime talks after 'victim-shaming' concerns'. Print Edition | Subscribe