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Actress starts talk show on sexual assault

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Actress Debra Teng hopes YouTube series will lead to bigger movement on sexual assault

When the "Me Too" movement gained global traction late last year, it resonated strongly with freelance actress Debra Teng, as it triggered memories of how she was sexually assaulted when she was a teenager.

While she had kept silent on her ordeal for many years, Ms Teng, who is in her 40s, was inspired by the movement to create her own talk show series on sexual assault.

Titled Under The Carpet #MeToo, the programme premiered on Monday with the first of the 18-part series uploaded on YouTube.

"I think having this show, and having people listen to it, might help people realise that this does happen to other people, and they can know that there's a place that they can go to for help," said Ms Teng.

It was the sort of conversation that was sorely missing when she was a teenager, she said.

The Singaporean said she was sexually assaulted when she was 15, during an audition for a role in a television commercial.

A man claiming to be a casting director had preyed on her when they were alone in a room, she said. He instructed her to change into a bikini in front of him, which she refused. The man later slipped his hand under her bikini and groped her, added Ms Teng.

Terrified, she put on her clothes and fled the room.

She made no mention of the assault to anyone as she did not know how to deal with it.

"I kept that within me for many, many years, but in my heart I knew that one day I'm going to do something about it, one day I'm going to empower other people to speak up, and to not let this happen to other young girls," said Ms Teng.

The talk show is her way of doing just that, she added.

Produced by Ms Teng and a group of 11 other volunteer film-makers, the series sees Ms Teng talking to six different guests about the different aspects of sexual assault.

The guests include the head of the Association of Women for Action and Research's sexual assault centre and a male sexual assault victim.

The episodes, between six and eight minutes each, will be uploaded on YouTube every Monday for the next 17 weeks. The team took three days to film all the interviews.

While the series has just started, there are already converts to the cause - notably within Ms Teng's team of film-makers.

Ms Noel Baris, 39, who helped to edit the interviews, said she never imagined that sexual assault would be an issue in Singapore, which is seen as a safe city. The Dutch national moved here six years ago.

"But when you get involved in something like this and when you hear that these things have happened here, it's really a rude awakening," said the permanent resident, who works as an IT specialist.

Ms Teng hopes that the talk show can eventually lead to a bigger movement. "I want to create a real movement in Singapore, where people feel safe to come out and talk about how this is not right, this should not be happening," she said.

"Maybe then, the people who are able to make changes will listen."