This post was originally published as a press release on 26 November 2018. 

Ten women courageously open up about their sexual violence and harassment ordeal in a hard-hitting
video, kicking off Aim for Zero, AWARE’s latest campaign to end sexual violence in Singapore.

Their stories give us a glimpse of some common experiences among sexual violence survivors: battling victim-blaming attitudes, unsympathetic employers who took no action, or parents who couldn’t fully understand their trauma.  

Aim for Zero will be launched in conjunction with International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The Guest-of-Honour for the opening event on 26 November will be Mr. K Shanmugam, Minister for Law and Home Affairs, who has led the Government’s recent initiatives to strengthen the laws on sexual assault and improve survivors’ access to justice.  

A sexual assault survivor, a community changemaker and an expert in trauma-informed practice will be participating in an empowering dialogue at the event.

Said Corinna Lim, Executive Director of AWARE, “Whether you are a leader, a parent, an employer, or a student, you can take concrete steps to address sexual violence. We should press for collective action by keeping one another accountable, stepping up to diligently ensure the spaces we occupy are free from harassment and violence, and be supportive first-responders to those who have been assaulted or harassed.”

Said Minister Shanmugam, “The campaign video carries an important and powerful message. It takes courage and conviction for victims to come forward to tell their story. There will be zero tolerance for sexual assault, whether it is against women, men, children, or people of different sexual orientation. The CPC has been updated, and the Penal Code will be amended soon. We have introduced new procedures to strengthen protection for victims and will be introducing new laws to deter sexual assault. We take this seriously.”

The campaign is AWARE’s response to the outcries against sexual violence amplified by the global #metoo movement.

“Besides a handful of local cases on workplace and institutional harassment that received public attention, Singapore has been relatively less visible in the #metoo conversation. But that doesn’t mean we weren’t touched by it. Our Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) saw a 79% surge in cases at the end of 2017, when the #metoo movement took off. This proves that more support is needed, and concrete change needs to happen on every level – that’s what Aim for Zero plans to do,” said Ms. Lim, who is also one of the participants of the video and spoke about her experience of workplace harassment.

“With the recommendations by the Penal Code Review Committee to the Government to repeal marital immunity for rape, there’s no better time to ride on the momentum of these big moves for change and rally behind survivors’’

As part of Aim for Zero, AWARE will:

  • Expand the outreach and capacity of SACC, Singapore’s only one-stop support centre for survivors of sexual violence and harassment. The centre saw a 79% spike in cases in October 2017 when #metoo first went viral.  
  • Train more employers and workers on how to manage workplace harassment and implement strong anti-harassment policies and processes. Catalyse Consulting, AWARE’s corporate training arm, saw a 400% increase in workshops on managing workplace harassment since #metoo.
  • Conduct educational programmes and workshops for the public on consent, sexual violence and gender equality. AWARE will introduce a new programme to encourage parents to have age-appropriate consent and sexuality education at home, while SACC will work with community groups and the public to run more first-responder workshops to improve the support survivors receive from the moment of disclosure.  
  • Carry out a survey on the prevalence of workplace harassment, and other forms of sexual violence. The findings from the research will contribute to national discourse on how to enhance legal protection and improve investigative processes for survivors.

Chanel, a survivor of sexual violence who shared her experience through the campaign video, said, “When I was going through different episodes of violence throughout my life, from catcalling to sexual assault, I asked myself, ‘Why do we live in a society where the lines between Yes and No are blurred?’ I traced it back to this power system called the patriarchy.  Patriarchy is toxic for everybody, from women to men, from the young to the old. Aim for Zero offers the right space to fight back, a space where important questions are asked and action is taken. Change needs to happen at home, in schools, in institutions, and in organisations.”

Said Dawn, another participant of the video, “Zero is the only number worth aspiring towards to truly achieve respect and safety for every individual. This campaign is important to keep the #metoo conversation going while translating all the talk into necessary action and change. Sexual violence involves every one of us, so let’s listen and Aim for Zero. It’s our collective responsibility.”

Said Zann, a supporter of the campaign who has experienced sexual violence, “I would love to see organisations and companies adopt a strict anti-harassment stance and play an active role in establishing proper channels to report sexual misconduct – safely and anonymously.”

Members of the public can show their support by donating to AWARE’s Aim For Zero fund and sharing the video on social media with the hashtag #AimforZeroSG.