AWARE ‘shocked, disappointed’ after Raeesah Khan admits to lying about sexual assault case
SINGAPORE: The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) said it was “shocked and disappointed” after Member of Parliament Raeesah Khan (WP-Sengkang) admitted to lying in Parliament about a rape case she alleged had been mishandled by the police.
“While we believe that her intentions - to raise the need for more sensitive first response from officials handling sexual violence cases - were sound, we are disappointed that Ms Khan lied about the details of this situation,” AWARE said in a Facebook post, shortly after Ms Khan’s admission in Parliament on Monday (Nov 1).
“Such behaviour only sets back advocacy around sexual violence in Singapore,” AWARE added.
Ms Khan first mentioned the case on Aug 3 during the Workers' Party's motion on empowering women.
She said she had accompanied a 25-year-old woman to make a police report three years ago, and that the victim had come out crying because a police officer allegedly made comments about her dressing and her drinking.
In Parliament on Monday, Ms Khan admitted that she was "not present with the survivor in the police station as I described".
Ms Khan said the anecdote was shared in a support group for survivors of sexual assault, of which Ms Khan was a part of. Ms Khan said she attended the support group as she had been sexually assaulted when she was an 18-year-old studying abroad.
She also apologised to the rape victim for using her anecdote without consent.
“SHE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER”: AWARE
AWARE said Ms Khan's decision to share the anecdote of the support group participant without seeking permission was not "survivor-centric".
“As she herself admitted, she should have known better,” AWARE said.
The organisation also said it was “imperative” to respect the confidentiality of a survivor of sexual assault, “and the measure of control that such confidentiality affords them”.
“Survivors are unlikely to talk about the trauma they experience unless they feel they can do so safely, without their privacy being violated,” AWARE said, adding that support groups have “rules of confidentiality” for this reason. Ms Khan’s behaviour also “plays into the persistent myth that women frequently lie about assault”, said AWARE.
"According to MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs), only 4 per cent of sexual assault reports are found to be false; on the other hand, the majority of survivors don’t file police reports," said AWARE.
“Unfortunately, high-profile instances of untrue stories can disproportionately colour the way society views other testimonies from women,” it added.
The organisation said that it hoped the incident “does not undermine the original matter that Ms Khan was trying to address”, which was the need to deal with sexual assault more sensitively and effectively.
“This is an important societal issue that we hope will continue to be discussed and debated in Parliament,” AWARE said.
The organisation also expressed sympathy for Ms Khan, saying it can be “immensely difficult and traumatic to identify yourself as a victim-survivor of sexual assault, particularly in the public eye”.