What’s with the lenient punishment for molesters? | campus.sg

By now, you will have heard the name Terence Siow Kai Yuan, a 23-year old undergrad student of NUS. He’s made headlines for not only molesting a 28-year-old woman in public, he was also spared any real punishment for his deeds.

It’s the last detail that’s gotten everyone up in arms. Terence was only ordered to perform 150 hours of community service under 21 months of supervised probation, when the prosecution called for a 6-week jail term. The reason? Judge Jasvender Kaur argued that he only committed ‘minor intrusions’, and his academic results showed he had ‘good potential to excel in life’.

Everyone was surprised at the verdict. Even K Shanmugam.

This is for a guy who not only touched his victim on the train at Serangoon MRT station, he also followed her up the escalator and molested her again. On her Facebook page, the victim had rejected an offer of $5,000 in compensation if they could settle the case out of court.

There has been interesting developments for this case:

  • Within days of the sentence, more than 40,000 people have signed an online petition calling for signatories to stand against ‘favouritism’ for sex offenders. The Brock Turner case is what comes to everyone’s minds.
  • The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) officers disagreed with the verdict, and filed an appeal against a district judge’s decision.
  • A mysterious handwritten apology letter for the victim from Terence was apparently used as part of the defense mitigation. In it, he wrote that he acted out his urges because he couldn’t control himself. Ironically, the actual letter never made it to the victim herself – she only received it digitally from Shin Min Daily News who reported the story on Saturday.

This is definitely not the only offense carried out by NUS male undergrads to date. Between 2015 and 2018, it was revealed that the NUS’ Board of Discipline heard at least 26 cases of sexual misconduct. In addition to offenders touching the thighs or buttocks of female students, there have been cases involving upskirt and shower videos.

Earlier this year, NUS student Monica Baey made headlines when she vented her anger at the lenient way the university treated Nicholas Lim, a fellow student who secretly filmed her while she was having a shower at the Eusoff Hall student residence. For his crimes, Nicholas was made to write an apology letter to her, and was given a 12-month conditional warning from police and suspended from school for a semester.

These lenient punishments make it seem as if molest – particularly if committed by students – is not a serious crime. But it hasn’t always been seen that way.

In 2009, a top psychology graduate student at NUS – who was 28 at the time – was accused of brushing his private parts against the thigh of a 24-year-old fellow student in a crowded bus, and ejaculating onto her (a drop of semen was found on her thigh). While the details of the deed were a bit difficult to judge – he was holding a jacket in front of his privates at the time – he was nonetheless sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment and three strokes of the cane.

In this case, he didn’t even touch the female student, but he was not only sentenced to prison, he was also caned. So in the decade since he committed his crime, it seems that punishments for molestation (and similar crimes) seems to have become way more lenient.

The rule of law is supposed to deter perverts from re-committing a crime, but with such weak punishments, how are women supposed to feel safe in this age of the #MeToo movement?