Have you been secretly photographed on the MRT?
Whether you’ve already accepted that this is a common occurrence in Singapore or whether you’re absolutely flabbergasted at the perversity of some who secretly photograph oblivious girls, this problem is very real today.
With the ubiquity of smartphones in Singapore as well as quick camera functions that allow one to snap a shot of anything instantly, it is common to see people whipping out their phones to photograph something in passing. What happens, however, if they are snapping a shot of an unwitting girl? This violation sends us reeling in sheer disgust but is, sadly, an issue not alien locally.
Photographing unwitting girls
When Singaporean Krystal Choo realised that the man sitting opposite her in the train was snapping shots of her, she confronted him without hesitation and loudly demanded an explanation. Upon getting him to delete the photo, she saw in his camera gallery a myriad of shots of unwitting girls.
Krystal Choo’s story (Posted on her Facebook page)
Girls, always be aware of what goes on around you, especially when you're alone.
Just because you're in Singapore, you're safe? Think again.
We are years away from harassment, molestation, exploitation, and rape in volume.
Just years. Know why? Because no one here gives a cuss about you or anyone but themselves. If you're in trouble, people will whip out their phones to video you, not help you. You are as safe as you keep yourself.
Earlier on the MRT, I was on the phone when a man sitting across from me took photos of me. I couldn't be sure - too distracted. Hung up the phone. Bastard kept looking me in the eye. I was ready to go. He put his phone up and took another one - with the shutter sound. Girl beside him saw it and looked straight at me.
I placed my heavy bag on the seat and walked toward him. Stood right over him so I could see both his face and his phone. Really did not want to make a scene but sure as hell wasn't going to let him get away with it.
I asked loudly if he just took a photo of me. He stammered yes. I made him delete it. I told him off for doing it. I told him to pass me his phone. He wouldn't. I demanded to see his gallery. An entire album of unwitting girls. I looked at him in disgust. Said you did this with so many girls. All this loudly. Stomp it for all I care, you cowardly Singaporeans. You silent spectators. Watch and tell your family and friends.
After my rant and check, I went back to the seat. Had my own things to do. He stayed till his stop. What nerve. Kept looking over. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction of knowing he was even part of my life after that perverse moment.
Finally caught my eye. He said I'm sorry. Lucky too. I was so close to being one of those guys who take photos of strangers and shame them on Facebook. Maybe next time. And there will be a next time. Because most people would do nothing. So how can we expect change?
This is not uncommon. This has happened to me a lot, for years.
Girls, always always stand up for yourselves. It's not right. And hopefully, one day, someone will stand right beside you too, phone tucked away.
While many applaud Krystal for her courage to stand up for herself, it is an unfortunate fact that majority in Singapore will not dare or would not know how to handle such a situation as effectively as her. Perhaps it is due to our conservative Asian culture of shunning the taboo topics of sex and immodesty, where families refrain from speaking about situations like this, that results in many young girls ill-equipped with the knowledge of how to react.
Such uncertainty hinders when moral courage prompts them to stand up for themselves should they be put in such a spot. Because of this docility, offenders repeatedly intrude upon the modesty of such girls, unfairly robbing them of their dignity.
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Helping your child develop moral courage
Instilling a sense of confidence and moral courage in your kid has to start from day one. Here are some ways that you can guide your child to learn how to stand up for and protect themselves.
1. Be a role model
- When your child emulates your little actions of giving up your seats in the train to those who need it more, returning extra change when you are wrongly given too much or even just holding the door open for the person behind you, he or she realises the importance of integrity and civic consciousness, hence will naturally be more aware and unafraid to do what is right.
2. Talk openly about such matters
- We spoke to Krystal and she advises that parents should create consistent dialogues with their children on such touchy topics often. When you and your child speak openly about beliefs you share and where you stand on such issues, they naturally feel more confident about their views and rights, empowering them with greater courage to stand up for themselves.
3. Play-act out difficult scenarios
- Instead of hiding from sensitive topics like this, actively play out different situations in which your child might be exposed to and experience fear in. Encourage your child to act out their reaction and show them how to handle the matter bravely. This “live” experience will come in handy should your child ever need to deal with something like this.
Killing the fear
Girls need not be afraid to speak up and should not fear that others might accuse them of “asking for it” when they become such victims. This is because no one ever asks for violation and there is never a good reason to violate anyone. Knowing that society is always on your side and not the pervert's side can also help girls overcome the fear and shock that such violation inflicts.
Sharing with us her thoughts and beliefs, Krystal concludes that the more we disallow people to get away with these acts, the less they are able to practice it -- making society safer for ourselves, our friends, and our children.
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Krystal Choo is the founder of ZipTrip. Watch her TEDx talk here: