When she was just 10 years old, Lily witnessed a man expose his nether regions to her in the lift. While he did not make any physical contact with Lily, the unsavoury image has haunted her for the past 17 years since then.
“Even now, I daren’t enter a lift with a lone man. Who knows what he would do to me, especially when I’m vulnerable and trapped with no way out!” she exclaimed.
This mindset that men are no longer trustworthy because of one “dirty” deed, might sound trivial or even silly to some, but to Lily and many other minor victims, it has lasting repercussions.
Jane, now 27 years old, can still vividly remember that “horrible” bus ride she took on the way back from school. A middle-aged man, who was sitting beside her, unzipped his pants and started pleasuring himself — in broad daylight.
“It was disgusting and extremely disturbing for me. I was still young, and ignorant about sexual behaviour and habits. I couldn’t erase that nasty visual from my mind for months after that,” she said.
Celine, 30, recalled the first time she witnessed an indecent act in a taxi, when she was in her teens. “I saw the taxi driver rubbing and scratching his groin, while looking at me through his rearview mirror. What was worse was his lecherous smirk on his face while he was doing that!”
While few indecent exposure or behaviour cases are reported to the authorities, Audrey Rajalingam believed that it is still important that the issues are dealt with. “Especially for the young, if they receive support and comfort from their loved ones, it’ll help to calm their nerves and allay any fears,” said the Senior Social Worker at Tampines Family Service Centre, a community outreach of Methodist Welfare Services.
However, if the child does not seek help or support, they might end up developing various types of fear. Audrey added: “It could be fear of strangers, taking lifts alone, or similar places where the incident happened. Even inordinate fears like doing things on their own could surface too.”
SHARE IT WITH AN ADULT
Rather than keeping the incident to oneself, a minor should share the incident with an adult, preferably his or her parent.
“The child should be allowed to express his feelings and fears. And as parents, we should never dismiss them. We should listen and understand, while providing them with adequate measures until they’ve recovered,” advised Audrey.
Mrs Jenny Bong, Group Executive Director, MWS feels that children can be taught from young about sexual abuse. She has given talks in primary schools to teach children that no form of abuse is acceptable and what they can do to protect themselves. When it comes to indecent exposure, she tells children to do the following: shout loudly for help; get away from the person as soon as you can; tell an adult and with his/her help report the crime to the police.
*Names have been changed to protect their identities