I’m Christabel (many of you know me as “@bellywellyjelly”) and I want to talk to you about something that happened to me very recently. I spent the last couple of weeks coming to terms with what has happened, and now that I’m in the right headspace, I’m ready to address the situation because I do feel it’s important to do so.
Since the incident happened, a few individuals have reached out to me to let me know that they are going through the same torment of being sexually harassed. This is an open letter to let you know that you are not alone and that I stand with you.
In the last month, I have had my privacy violated and my modesty disregarded. An influx of lewd messages that can only be classified as sexual harassment have poured in after private videos, taken during a committed four-year relationship, and obtained by an anonymous source, flooded the internet. I am still getting them to this day.
When it first happened, I felt scared, humiliated, violated; and I did not know what to do. Who do I call? What do I say? And how do I make it all go away? Knowing that any action on my part could escalate the situation left me petrified. To be thrown headlong into a situation of such chaos and verbal abuse was very hard to deal with at first. It was as if the leak of those videos had declared open season on me: My modesty was discussed crudely in forums; people created anonymous email addresses and Instagram profiles to send me rude messages that detailed the perverse thoughts they had of me; angry messages were sent to my friends, family, and clients that I’d worked with. It was as if I was no longer worthy of being a daughter, a friend or an individual with any right to privacy. The Internet became a major source of pain and torment. I spent the first week or so coming to terms with what had happened, looking for any silver lining that I could cling to. It was only through the love from family and friends that I was thankfully able to find the strength and support I needed to stay afloat.
The Internet has always been a platform for me to spread joy, love and happiness. Yet, out of the tumult of emotions that descended on me, the sharpest that I’ve felt is disappointment. Disappointment at the blatant disregard for privacy and lack of basic human decency that many individuals have shown during this incident. I stand against cyber bullying and sexual harassment. And I certainly condemn the reckless sharing of private material in celebration of humiliation and amusement.
So if you are someone who has gone through a similar situation, if you have been harassed, violated or assaulted, then this letter is for you because I want you to know, and believe, that you are not any less of a respectable human being because of it. People will certainly say otherwise – in the last two months, I have truly seen the best and worst of humanity – but I urge you to shut those voices out, reach out to your family, friends or someone you can trust to find strength and carry on. Or, if reaching out to people around you is not a viable option, there are hotlines that you can call for help (they’re listed at the end of this post). Make the call and speak to someone. Don’t let what has happened to you define you but shape you.
More importantly, I want you to know that there are actions that you can take, including the legal ones listed below. I’m not saying that it’s going to be easy but find strength in the fact that you can make a stand and take charge of your situation. And now, hopefully, you’ll know how. So make a stand and know that I stand with you.
Now, and always,
Legal Ramifications of the Distribution of Obscene Materials
By Mark Teng, Infinitus Law Corporation
It is common knowledge that Singapore has strict criminal laws. Some of these laws that can be used to combat possession and distribution of obscene content are as follows:
Section 292 of the Penal Code provides, inter alia, that the distribution, transmission by electronic means, circulation, and even possession of obscene content may be criminal offences that are punishable with a term of imprisonment of up to three (3) months or more.
Section 29(3) of the Films Act also provides, inter alia, a parallel remedy, against the distribution and possession for the purposes of distribution of obscene films. The convict is subject to a minimum fine of $2,000 for each such film up to an aggregate of $80,000 or imprisonment for up to 2 years or both.
Victims of revenge porn may consider the following options:
1. Content Removal
The priority for any victim is to have the images or videos removed from the public domain. Given that perpetrator had been vengeful enough to upload the content, the culprit would unlikely be forthcoming in response to your complaints. However, content online is usually hosted through a third party social media host, or a website with an administrator.
Identify the hosts’ contact details and lodge a complaint with the host. Victims may also rely on copyright infringement if they are the owner of the content. If no such terms are such available, victims may rely on general laws such as a breach of confidence, breach of personal data protection rules, harassment or copyright infringement to have offensive content removed.
A victim can do this directly, but it is generally more effective, if the victim engages a lawyer with the relevant experience.
If the publisher of the content and the website operator are not forthcoming in removing the offensive content, an injunction may be sought from the Courts. Injunctions include prohibitory and mandatory Court orders that can prevent the offensive content from being published online. If an injunction is carefully drafted, it can help prevent further dissemination because a breach of an injunction can result in a custodial sentence.
If you’re going to apply for an injunction, you need to speak to a lawyer.
3. Civil Law Remedies
If the victim wishes to pursue a perpetrator directly, one might decide to send a cease and desist letter and even commence civil legal proceedings. Bringing a claim against someone directly can potentially avail injunctions and damages. Again, you’d need a lawyer to do this for you and it will be at your own cost.
4. Criminal Law Remedies
As set out before, revenge porn can be a criminal offence. Criminal prosecution may be commenced in generally two (2) ways.
The first and typical way for criminal proceedings to commence is with the lodgement of a police complaint. The police would investigate the potential crime and if the police were satisfied that a crime has been committed, the police would make recommendations to the Attorney General’s Chambers for the perpetrator to be prosecuted.
The second way to initiate criminal proceedings is to make a Magistrate’s Complaint directly in Court. If the Magistrate is preliminarily satisfied that a crime has been committed, the Magistrate may allow criminal proceedings to be commenced. While it is open for victims to make a Magistrate’s Complaint on their own motion, such victims would have to conduct proceedings in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code. For this reason, it is not uncommon for such victims to hire lawyers to assist with prosecution on a private basis. Lawyers may apply for authorisation from the Attorney General’s Cambers to conduct prosecution proceedings of accused persons on behalf of the Attorney General’s Chambers, otherwise known as the Public Prosecutor.
There are pros and cons between these two options. One the one hand, without getting into technicalities, the first option may be better because it does not require the complainant to incur costs. On the other hand, the second option allows the complainant to take investigations and the prosecution process into their own hands.
Ask for Help
AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research)
The organisation offers counselling and legal advice for a variety of concerns.
Phone: 1800 777 5555
Sexual Assault Care Centre at AWARE
This arm of AWARE provides women facing sexual harassment and assault legal information, counselling and assistance at courts and police stations.
Phone: 6779 0282
Samaritans of Singapore
This suicide prevention centre offers emotional support to people thinking about suicide or are affected by suicide.
Phone: 1800 221 4444
Community Justice Centre
This centre provides legal advice as well as practical and emotional support for litigants in person.
Phone: 6557 4100
The Legal Aid Bureau (LAB)
The organisation offers legal services to Singapore citizens and PRs who need but cannot afford it.
Phone: 1800 225 5529