In August of 2016, covered a story which highlights concerns about the way in which female who are victims of sexual assault are treated, both in and out of the courtroom. In one case, the accused man’s lawyer used the victim’s physical attributes in his defense of his client. The lawyer chose to focus on the victim’s attractiveness and her breasts saying that one could hardly blame his client for wanting to touch the woman.

This type of unprofessional conduct was not overlooked, as the Judge took six pages of his grounds-of-decision document to rebuke Mr. Wong’s behaviour.

Going Beyond the Courtroom

The case caught the attention of Singapore Law Minister K. Shanmugam. He emphasized the importance of reviewing how women are treated, from the moment they are victimized until the court proceedings are over. Every step has to be looked at:

  • The situation at the police station when the report was made
  • How the examination was conducted in the hospital
  • The sensitivity of the people working with the victim throughout the entire process

Minimising the Post-Attack Trauma

The event of the sexual assault itself is extremely traumatic for a woman and can cause lasting psychological and emotional damage. Women may need therapy or visits with a psychiatrist in Singapore in order to deal with the trauma of being sexually attacked. The events after the sexual assault, including the report to police, the medical exam, and the trial can be traumatic as well, especially if the female victim encounters rude, insensitive, or offensive treatment from various individuals involved in the process.

Simply retelling the events of the assault can have a significant impact on the victim’s psyche. To reduce the impact on mental health for Singapore’s sexual assault victims, experts suggest reducing the need for the victim to retell, thus reducing the chances of the victim having to relive the terrible ordeal again and again.

Right now, a woman has to face the reality of her experience and recount details verbally at least four times – once in her report to police, again when she speaks with the prosecutor before the trial, during the trial when she testifies in the courtroom, and during the cross-examination by the lawyer for the defense. Every retelling of the event forces the woman to relive something deeply harmful and traumatic.

Ensuring a Fair Trial

As defense attorneys often point out, there is a need to review all the facts of the case to ensure a fair trial for the accused. However, the way in which the questioning or reporting is conducted is critical. If it is done in a sensitive way, the psychological impact on the female victim is not as severe. According to the Singapore Association of Women for Action and Research, individuals who interact with sexual assault victims should be required to undergo sensitivity training to ensure that their session with the woman does not cause addition harm to her mental health.

Finding the Balance

Minister Shanmugam and others continue to work toward a healthy balance of sensitivity to victims and the use of questioning and defense strategies for the sake of a fair trial. If you or someone you know has suffered mental trauma due to a sexual assault, contact our offices at Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic. Our trained professionals can offer confidential counseling and mental health care to help victims cope with their traumatic experiences.

News Feed from Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Source: Straits Times, August 20, 2016