By Nur Ashikin Louis
KUCHING, Oct 22: Victims of sexual harassment cases sometimes refuse to speak out of fear that they would be further victimised and ridiculed while the perpetrator runs free without having to face any consequences.
In stating this, Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said more advocacy and awareness programmes should be carried out to educate the general public on sexual harassment crimes, to have empathy towards the victims and their rights.
“Many victims shy away from reporting their assault because such topics are not something that we can discuss openly due to stigmatisation of sexual assault in society.
“When the victims do report (their experiences), many do not believe them or take their stories seriously. In some cases, the victims were further victimised and subjected to ridicule while others will choose to defend the offenders,” she said at a press conference held at Bangunan Sultan Iskandar in Simpang Tiga, Kuching today.
She was responding to recent media reports concerning national diving queen Datuk Pandelela Rinong Pamg, who had revealed that she was previously bullied by a former coach after she spoke out against a former coach for making lewd jokes towards athletes.
Fatimah also mentioned that some sexual harassment cases went unreported because the victims feel reluctant to be involved in a long investigation process and recalling traumatic experiences would be sometimes too much for a victim to endure.
“For the victims to recall the traumatic experience, they are subjected to the feeling of shame over and over again. It is not easy for them. The idea of being bombarded with questions about the personal horrific event scares many victims away from reporting their assaults. Sometimes, they give up halfway,” she added.
Nevertheless, Fatimah called on victims to come forward and speak out because the police would not be able to bring the perpetrator to court without the victims’ reports.
She also said the general public should be taught to be more understanding and empathetic towards the victim and not the perpetrator because continuous victim blaming would only encourage such cases to go unreported.
Additionally, she opines that more support systems should be made easily available for victims of sexual assault, such as counselling and psychiatric services. — DayakDaily