Frontline police officers – males and females alike – frequently dismiss molest as 'normal occurrences', discouraging victims from filing a report.
Last year, Kuala Lumpur police recorded 150 cases of molest, an insignificant number, when in reality hundreds of girls and women have their breasts brushed against, grabbed, touched, fondled, kissed and molested against their will daily while travelling in buses, on LRTs, at restaurants, in carparks, in open public areas, clubs and parties.
Molest is not rape, but it is still an offence punishable with imprisonment.
There are two sections under the Malaysian Penal Code – Sections 354 and 509 – and the Minor Offences Act 1955 that lend support to women victims but frontline police officers seem either unaware or are not bothered.
Molesters are usually nonchalant about their actions while their victims mostly suffer in silence because both society and the police – males and females alike – are judgmental and dismissive of the affront against them.
When 26-year-old Patricia was molested, she immediately went to the nearest police station wanting to make a report.
But after listening to her detailed explanation, the officer shrugged it off as a “normal occurrence”.
It left Patricia gobsmacked. What do you do in a situation like this?
Patricia had been waiting for a taxi when a man walked pass and grabbed her buttocks before coolly sauntering off.
“That kind of thing leaves you in shock. You don’t know what to do next.
“It’s embarrassing and the people who saw it happen, seemed embarrassed for me.
“I mean, they knew what happened, but when I turned around, they averted my gaze. I know it wasn’t an accidental touch.
“I know it was deliberate – women know these things and it’s extremely repulsive,” she said.
‘They blamed me’
At the police station, the officer said that Patricia had invited the attention.
“He also told me that I should probably wear longer blouses to cover my derriere so as not to attract unwanted attention.
“He told me that things like this are a normal occurrence. Besides, how can the perpetrator be caught since I couldn’t even offer a lucid description of the man.
“He had such a holier-than-thou attitude.
“I left the station without filing a report and feeling extremely disillusioned with the police. We are such hypocrites,” she said, adding that she still thinks about what happened to her, especially when driving past taxi stands.
Patricia is not an isolated case.
For two years Liza, a Filipina domestic maid, suffered the threat of rape and sexual advances from her male employer.
According to Liza, she could not afford to be forgetful. Every time she was, her employer would threaten to “teach her a lesson” by raping her.
While a rape never happened, he would nonetheless tell her that she probably “needed” to have sex in order to wake up her “a lazy mind”.
Verbal innuendos soon gave way to actual molestation.
It was late in the afternoon and Liza was scrubbing the kitchen sink when the employer walked up to her and blatantly grabbed her right breast.
“I was holding a steel wool… and I crushed it my palms to stop me from screaming. I don’t know why I didn’t want to scream. Maybe it was from fear that he would do something worse to me,” she said. School ‘flasher’
Her employer then crudely remarked that he would like to see her breast.
Seeing the look on Liza’s face amused him enough to laugh it off, but not before cautioning her to keep her mouth shut.
This went on for an entire year. Unable to take the strain anymore, Liza sought shelter in a church which then brought her to a women’s refuge.
Most recently a flasher stood outside an all-girls school in the Klang Valley and flashed at passing students. Mind you, it wasn’t the first time he’d done that.
Sixteen-year-old Suzanne was among the girls who sighted the flasher.
When they reported it to their school teachers, they were chastised.
“We were standing under a tree in the school when I saw a man walk up to the school gate and unzip his pants.
“I didn’t know what to make of it except to think that he was going to urinate in public.
“I was very disgusted and pointed this out to my friends when suddenly, one of them screamed and said that she had just seen his private parts. It was then that I turned around and saw it too.
“But when we complained to the teacher about the flasher, she just told us to stay away from the gate and not to have our lunch under the trees anymore.
“Another teacher asked us what did we did to make the man do what he did.
“I couldn’t believe my ears. I thought they would call the police,” she said.
Report incidents Amanda was 12 and with her mother when she first experienced molest. A stranger had casually brushed against her breast and she knew it wasn’t accidental.
The second time it happened, she was with her father and on an escalator in a mall when she felt a stab on her breast. Again it was no accident.
Her third incident was a neighbour who flashed from across the road.
“I had this neighbour who lived in the row of houses across mine. One day, I looked out my bedroom window and saw that he was stark naked and masturbating,” she said, adding that none of the incidents were ever reported to the police.
DSP Choo Lily, who is the head of Kuala Lumpur Sexual Crimes and Child Abuse Division, is well aware of the frequent incidents of flashers and cases of molest in the city.
She also knows that bulk of the incidents go unreported.
“Many females who are violated would generally brush it off as something bad that just happens.
“A lot of them may just get really annoyed but just walk off. God knows how many times in a day such things happen, ” she said.
While the laws exist to protect women, victims of molest are reluctant to take the route.
According to Choo, the most common sreasons victims don’t report the matter was “the hassle” and bureaucracy.
“They don’t want to be bothered to go to the police and go through the process. It can get tiring and many don’t want to see their cases to the end.
“A lot of cases are just dropped by the victims when the suspects apologise,” said Choo.
However, Choo stressed that every incident was still worth the report.