Raeesah Khan admits to lying about accompanying rape victim to police station, apologises for allegations
The Workers' Party Member of Parliament withdrew allegations that police mishandled a sexual assault case and apologised to a rape victim for using her anecdote without consent. She has been referred to the Committee of Privileges.
SINGAPORE: Member of Parliament Raeesah Khan (WP-Sengkang) on Monday (Nov 1) admitted to lying in Parliament about details of a rape case that she alleged was mishandled by the police, saying she did not accompany a victim to the police station as she had claimed.
She apologised to the Singapore Police Force and retracted an anecdote she had shared of a rape victim, saying her previous statement on the matter was "untrue".
Ms Khan has been referred to the Committee of Privileges for breach of parliamentary privilege, said Leader of the House Indranee Rajah, noting that Ms Khan had lied in Parliament on three occasions and failed to substantiate the allegations.
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 the fact that she had been drinking.
This prompted Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam to ask Ms Khan in Parliament on Oct 4 for more details, saying that such allegations would be investigated and taken seriously. Ms Khan declined to give more information, citing the need for confidentiality.
When Mr Shanmugam asked Ms Khan to confirm that she had accompanied the victim to the police station, she affirmed it. The minister said the police would continue to investigate the allegations and invite Ms Khan for an interview.
The police said on Oct 20 that Ms Khan had not responded to requests asking her to provide details on the sexual assault case.
In Parliament on Monday, Ms Khan admitted that she was "not present with the survivor in the police station as I described".
"The anecdote was shared by the survivor in a women's support group for women which I was a part of. I did not share that I was a part of the group as I did not have the courage to publicly admit that I was a part of it," she said.
Ms Khan revealed that she was sexually assaulted when she was an 18-year-old studying abroad, and that it has traumatised her until today.
She apologised to the sexual assault victim in the case she brought up, saying she should not have shared it without her consent.
"To survivors of sexual violence, I hope that this does not deter you from reporting your assaults," she said.
Ms Khan acknowledged that she had disregarded the principles around consent and discussions concerning survivors of sexual assault.
"As a survivor myself, I feel this failure deeply. It is important for me to take responsibility for my actions, for my error of judgment and to set the record straight," she said.
Her voice broke as she apologised.
"I wish to correct the record by retracting the anecdote that I shared on Aug 3, and I wish to apologise to the Singapore Police Force," Ms Khan said.
"Lastly, I want to apologise to the survivor whose quote I used, to the House, to my constituents, to the Workers' Party, its members and volunteers.
"And to my family, especially to my parents. To the residents of Sengkang, I'll work even harder for you."
Raeesah Khan's statement of apology in Parliament
On Aug 3, I spoke in this House on the motion on empowering women.
During my speech, I had shared an anecdote of a survivor of sexual assault. I was not present with the survivor at the police station as I described. The anecdote was shared by the survivor and a women's support group for women which I was a part of. I did not share that I was a part of the group as I did not have the courage to publicly admit that I was part of it.
I attended the support group because I myself am a survivor of sexual assault. I was sexually assaulted when I was 18, studying abroad. That assault has traumatised me till this day. The fear and shame accompanying sexual assault is extreme and long-lasting as it has been and still is for me.
Unlike the survivor whose anecdote I shared in this House, I did not have the courage to report my own assault. Yet as a survivor, I wanted so deeply to speak up and also share that account I had heard when speaking on the motion, without revealing my own private experience.
I should not have shared the survivor's anecdote without her consent nor should I have said that I accompanied her to the police station when I had not. It was wrong of me to do so.
To survivors of sexual violence, I hope that this does not deter you from reporting your assaults. In sharing an anecdote without consent, I disregarded the principle of consent in discussions around survivors, consent and sexual assault.
As a survivor myself, I feel this failure deeply. It is important for me to take responsibility for my actions for my error of judgment and to set the record straight. I wish to correct the record by retracting the anecdote that I shared on Aug 3, and I wish to apologise to the Singapore Police Force.
Lastly, I want to apologise to the survivor whose quote I used, to the House, to my constituents, to the Workers' Party, its members and volunteers, and to my family, especially to my parents. To the residents of Sengkang, I'll work even harder for you. Thank you.
RAEESAH KHAN DIDN'T KNOW "ANY DETAILS" OF CASE
In a subsequent exchange with Ms Indranee, Ms Khan tried to explain why she had persisted with the untrue statement when immediately questioned after her speech on Aug 3, saying that she wanted to protect the survivor and the people in the support group.
"It's really difficult to share a traumatic experience like this and to share that I was a part of that group in the first place," she said.
When Ms Indranee asked if Ms Khan would have been able to relay the anecdote in Parliament without referring to the support group or the untruth, Ms Khan said it would have been possible, "but in my haste and in my passion to advocate for survivors like myself, I did a mistake".
"I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I did not have my own courage to report on my own assault. So I felt very compelled to ensure that other survivors who do get the courage to report their assault to have that process done with respect and with dignity," she said.
"But I recognise the Leader of the House's comments, and I do recognise that it was not the right way to go about it."
When Ms Indranee asked why Ms Khan repeated the untruth in her exchange with Mr Shanmugam on Oct 4, Ms Khan reiterated that she wanted to protect the survivor's identity and of those in the support group.
"And secondly, a lot of people did not know about this assault (that happened to me) until very recently, including my family. So I was not ready at that point to come forward with this information," she said.
"But after being able to have discussions with my family, with my friends, and also informing the relevant people, it was clear that I wanted to make this apology. I wanted to make this personalised explanation like I've done so today."
Ms Indranee then asked if Ms Khan knew the details of the case that was allegedly mishandled but did not want to disclose them due to confidentiality, or if she did not actually know any of the details.
"I don't know any of the details," Ms Khan replied.
"All I knew was what I shared in my speech on Aug 3, and that was an account from the survivor. I understand that it's not going to be able to be verified, and hence I've withdrawn my anecdote and apologised to the Singapore Police Force as well."
BREACH OF PRIVILEGE
Ms Indranee reminded MPs that they must be prepared to substantiate any assertions or allegations made, adding that they must not breach or abuse their privilege.
She then raised a point of order to refer Ms Khan to the Committee of Privileges for breach of parliamentary privilege, although as members of the committee, Ms Indranee said she and Mr Shanmugam will recuse themselves from the case involving Ms Khan.
"One of those privileges is to be able to speak in parliament with immunity. Unlike other people, we can do so without fear of prosecution because of the underlying public policy interests, which is to be able to raise things," Ms Indranee said.
"And it's very, very important when we do so that we must be able to speak the truth in this House, and when we assert or make allegations, to be able to back them up."
Ms Indranee said she hopes Ms Khan will heal from her past experience, recover from her personal issues and repair her relationships, adding that she was referring Ms Khan to the committee with "great reluctance" as she has sympathy for Ms Khan's personal circumstances.
However, Ms Indranee stressed that Singaporeans look at what is being discussed in Parliament and believe what MPs say, and that untruths undermine Parliament's reputation, Singapore's institutions and the faith placed in MPs.
Ms Indranee said there remains a "cloud hanging over" the police, adding that it is unfair that the police have had to spend a lot of time and resources investigating the allegations.
"But most of all, and this really is the most distressing part, what has happened does a great disservice to the survivors of sexual assault and rape victims," she added.
"And the reason is because it's hard enough for such women who are victims to tell their stories, and they have great difficulty in getting people to believe them sometimes. So when relating their stories, and that is based on a lie and inability or unwillingness to substantiate the story, it makes it that much more difficult for these women to come forward and to tell their stories."
WORKERS' PARTY RESPONDS
In a Facebook post on the official Workers' Party page on Monday, secretary-general Pritam Singh said Ms Khan should not have shared in the House an account that contained untruths.
"The Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act gives an MP significant freedom of speech, to the extent that what is said in Parliament cannot be impeached or questioned outside Parliament," he said.
"However, this freedom of speech does not extend to communicating untruthful accounts, even if an MP’s motives are not malicious."
Mr Singh said Ms Khan had shared with him that she wanted to set the record straight in Parliament, and that she has apologised to the various parties.
"This was the correct thing to do," he added.