Number of tech-based sex crimes soars: Aware
From 46 such cases in 2016, the figure hit 124 last year
Technology-facilitated sex offences, such as upskirting, voyeurism and revenge porn, have been on the rise over the last three years, according to the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).
The gender-equality advocacy group's Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) said it saw 124 - or nearly three times more - cyber-related sexual offences last year, compared with 2016, where it saw 46 cases. The centre saw 99 such cases in 2017.
At an event titled Taking Ctrl, Finding Alt 2019 held at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar yesterday, SACC head Anisha Joseph revealed that image-based sexual abuse - defined as the non-consensual creation, obtainment and/or distribution of sexual pictures or videos of someone else - seen by the SACC has more than doubled over the three years, from 30 in 2016 to 64 last year.
This includes nudes taken with the subject's consent or without his or her knowledge, like in cases of upskirting or voyeurism.
Ms Joseph said that technology-based sexual violence can be committed by anyone, but almost half of the image-based sexual abuse cases seen over the last three years were committed by an intimate partner.
Almost 40 per cent of perpetrators of unwanted or explicit communication were likely to be someone in the survivor's workplace, she added.
From 2016 to 2018, one in two image-based sexual abuse survivors reached out to SACC and made a police report within a month, Ms Joseph said.
This is unusually fast for cases seen by the centre, as only 58 per cent of total victims reached out to SACC within a year of the incident.
In addition, the statistic showed a higher proportion of cyber-related sex crimes victims reporting their incident to any authority, as only 30 per cent of victims from overall cases made a report.
Yesterday's event, which marked both the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the first anniversary of Aware's Aim For Zero campaign against sexual violence, was attended by about 150 attendees.
The panel discussion featured Ms Monica Baey, an advocate for sexual violence survivors; Ms Amber Hawkes, the Asia-Pacific head of safety policy at Facebook; Mr Benny Bong, counsellor and president of Society Against Family Violence; and Ms Priscilla Chia, a litigator and volunteer lawyer with SACC.
Ms Joseph said that sexual violence in Singapore this year has largely been dominated by technology-related sexual offences, from Peeping Tom cases on university campuses to Telegram group chats distributing obscene materials.
She asked for greater public awareness and the urgency to curb this issue.
'NOT THE VILLAIN'
"Technology is not the villain here," said Ms Joseph.
"It is not the cause of sexual violence, but a medium through which violence is facilitated by perpetrators.
"The widespread availability of recording technology, and our 24/7 channels of communication make these actions all the more pervasive and damaging today."
Because technology is easily accessible by anyone, this makes it easier for perpetrators to commit cyber-based sex crimes, said Ms Chia.
"They can simply pick up a smartphone and commit an offence. Although there is a non-physical element, it doesn't discount the fact that someone's dignity has been taken away. There is a violation of trust and anyone can be a victim," she told The New Paper.
But technology can also be a credible source of evidence for victims and survivors to use to step forward to the police, said Ms Chia.
An example is the case involving Ms Baey, 23, who spoke up on how she had been filmed by a male student while showering in Eusoff Hall in April this year.
Ms Baey told TNP: "People think that cyber-related sex crimes are not as serious but it is as traumatic long-term.
"I still feel paranoid when I use public toilets, and it is unacceptable that this can happen within families, workplaces and campuses.
"If me speaking up can be the guiding light for just one person to come forward and do the same for themselves, then it is worth it."
On Nov 8, four men, aged 26 to 45, were arrested for allegedly circulating obscene materials in a Telegram chat group named after a Hokkien vulgarity.
And in late October, four men, aged 17 to 37, the administrators for the now clamped-down Telegram chat group SG Nasi Lemak, were charged in court for transmitting pornography by electronic means.