The Spectre of Incomplete Thinking

Note 1: I rewrote the first section of this essay. After reading through this article, I realised it was a shoddy piece of work. It was basically a giant straw man argument. I apologise for allowing something so poorly written out into the public domain, and I’ll strive for even higher standards of writing.

Note 2: There used to be an argument in the middle of the essay, centring on dates. In essence, the victim couldn’t remember when she was attacked. Li’s original article said she couldn’t place the date between 1997 to 2008. Li has since informed me that that was a typo. the victim couldn’t remember if the offence occured between October 1997 and February 1998. I don’t know much about the impact of post-attack trauma on memory, so I’m going to give Li the benefit of doubt here when she says that the Disciplinary Committee should be more understanding that the victim can’t accurately place the date of the attack.

Lisa Li’s article on sexual assault is disquieting on many fronts. It is the epitome of incomplete thinking in the field of women’s self-defence and personal safety. It settles the for the shallow and the emotive, repeating buzz words and slogans without analyzing the issues it purportedly talks about. Take a few minutes to read it through. I’ll be attacking it point by point.

(Note on terminology: Li prefers using ‘survivor’ in her essay, because she feels it’s empowering. I use ‘victim’, because that’s the standard terminology used by the media and legal system. I’m treating them as interchangeable for this essay.)

A matter of statistics

Li argues that the majority of sexual assaults are unreported. She says

In 2009, the International Violence Against Women Survey (IVAWS) in Singapore found that 77.5% and 71.7% of the survivors of non-partner and partner assault respectively did not report the incident to the police, and only 7% of those who experienced violence contacted specialised agencies for assistance . Although these figures refer to all types of assault, sexual assault is definitely part of this trend of under-reporting. What is it about rape and sexual assault that silences the majority of its survivors?

Yes, violent crimes are unreported. I’ve known people who’ve survived violent crimes without reporting them. But this paragraph seems to say that these figures of 77.5% and 71.7% as starting points when talking about how rape and sexual assault silences the majority of its victims. I almost did, in fact.

Physical violence is not necessarily the same as sexual violence. If she wants to talk about sexual assault and use statistics to support her argument, Li needs to get statistics on the people who didn’t report sexual assault. The document she provided had the authors’ contact information at the bottom – I doubt the authors wouldn’t have these figures.

It’s a shame, really. For a long time, it’s been a truism that the majority of sexual assaults go unreported. Li had had a chance to provide some real figures in her article. She didn’t.

The unknown trauma of reporting rapes

Li later argues that reporting rape is a very traumatic process. She says that the victim cannot bathe until she has taken the rape kit, face insensitive police questioners, and face even more trauma when examined in court. This, she argues, means that most victims ‘choose silence’.

But this argument does not hold water. It assumes that victims know what they are in for. But it’s extremely unlikely in Singapore.

Crime is not a major obssession in Singapore. Police and medical procedures rarely make it to the news, and courtroom examinations rarely so. Local police and court dramas don’t accurately capture this feeling either, because they are designed to entertain, not reflect reality. Foreign crime shows are irrelevant to the Singaporean context – it’s easy to dismiss foreign accents, cultures and procedures.

The average Singaporean woman would not be aware of the trauma she may experience during medical examinations, police interviews, and courtroom examinations until she is actually undergoing them. She might know of the procedures, to be sure, but not about the feeling of having to answer difficult questions by stone-faced men following the most violent incident of her life. Since crime is not a major facet of Singapore life, a relative few people have actually experienced post-rape trauma. Of this few people, even fewer would want to talk about their trauma. While it is perfectly understandable, it is extremely unlikely that these few women have managed to imprint the post-rape trauma experience into the collective female consciousness in Singapore.

Case in point, there were 202 rape victims in 2009. Just how many of them speak publicly and repeatedly about their experiences? And of these, how many have succeeded in telling Singaporean women what to expect after a rape?

Imogheena brought up a valid point about imagination. To whit, the victim’s imagination puts her off reporting the rape, because she feels it is worse than it actually is. I don’t have a problem with this. My real contention is that Li’s argument about knowledge is false, because it assumes knowledge when there is no proof of such collective knowledge.


Li says that many victims do not report their assaults to the authorities because they know the attackers. She also says that the vast majority of rapes were committed by people known to the victims.

And I agree. This statement agrees with my research.

What I don’t understand, however, is that Li drops this point entirely. She had a chance to address the majority of rapes, and prevent future ones, simply by dispensing advice like she dispensed arguments at the end of the paragraph. Since she didn’t, I’ll point you to someone who can tell you how to avoid being raped by someone you know.

Read all the links. They do a better job than me in this regard.

Repeal Section 157(d) of the Evidence Act?

Li argues that Section 157(d) must be repealed. To quote:

Although the Penal Code protects sexual assault survivors, the continued existence of Section 157(d) of the Evidence Act is almost a gap in the bulwark, an invitation for the accused and his defence lawyers to further traumatise the survivor by portraying her as a ‘slut’, since this can aid in the defence of the accused. This is because 157(d) allows the credit of the survivor to be impeached if she is shown to have “generally immoral character” – the strange assumption being that if she has a colourful sexual history, she cannot be trusted or she must have consented to the sex act in question.

Section 157(d) says:

157. The credit of a witness may be impeached in the following ways by the adverse party or, with the consent of the court, by the party who calls him:


(d) when a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character.
Li cited a 2002 


 to prove her point.
During the questioning, the accused attempted to turn the tables on his Complainant by portraying her as “a woman of loose morals”, even calling her a “part-time prostitute”, by producing security records which showed that the Complainant had various male visitors late at night at the office. Although she reasonably explained that this was because she feared a second sexual assault by the accused, and sought the protection of various male friends as she worked late into the night, the insinuation remained.
The link Li provided did not recount this part of the testimony. I’ll assume she didn’t randomly pluck a case out of thin air, so the lawyer was Lim Kien Thye and the employee Linda Koh. But the report simply stated that there was ‘no cause of sufficient gravity for disciplinary action’. That is legalese for, ‘there is no proof Lim did something wrong, so we can’t do anything’. Since Li’s link doesn’t tell what happened in the courtroom, and I’m not obliged to find out for her, I can’t believe her at face value.
Instead, let me show you what happens if Section 157(d) were repealed using a hypothetical example similar to this. A female employee at a law firm having sex in the office late at night. She takes a series of lovers and men to her office for nocturnal activities as a result. Later, she takes a fancy to her boss, and tries to seduce him. He turns her down. She gets angry, and proceeds to accuse him of molest.
In Singapore, the onus is generally on the defendent to prove his innocence, 


on the prosecutor to prove that the defendent is guilty – at least when the trial starts. It is very hard to prove a molest has happened without physical or video evidence. When a molest charge is filed, it is even harder to prove that a molest has 


Proving the absence of something is impossible unless you have proof that completely negates the possibility of absence – that is, you need to prove you could not have molested someone.
That’s why Section 157(d) exists. To defend men against false charges of rape and molest. I’m not saying that the majority of women like falsely accusing men of rape. But some women have, and men need a means to protect themselves in court.
The boss can testify that the woman took revenge against him because he rejected her, using security videos to reinforce his point that the woman liked having men in her office, and use the law to have charges against him dismissed. Without the law, the boss has to prove an absence, which is a significantly harder defence, and may even be impossible in certain situations.
Li seems to take the view that the woman must definitely be innocent and the man must definitely be guilty in this case. This is clearly not true. While there are no definitive sources on the actual number of false rape allegations, there have been 

some research

 into the phenomenon. No matter the actual percentage, false accusations have occurred so many times that one cannot definitively say that a rape accusation is 


false without proper investigation.
Granted, Section 157(d) can be used to “ask the sexual assault survivor humiliating questions”, and it would “deter victims to come forward and report the crime” (those that know of it). But justice must apply to all, and that means men, too, must be defended against female villains.
So what should be done? Section 157(d) does need to stay on the books to protect innocent men from false charges. I do think there needs to be some discussion about what ‘generally immoral character’ entails in the eyes of the law. It shouldn’t be used as a weapon to discredit rape victims and force women to reveal their sex lives in public, but it should remain as a shield against false rape accusations. I’m not a legal expert, so this guideline is all I can offer.

Victim blaming?

Li brings up the ever-popular argument of the culture of victim blaming. I’ve dealt with her assertions 




. I encourage you to read the links there, because they elaborate on the arguments used below.
Li brought up a 

gang sexual assault

 to prove her point.  About the victim, Li said,
She was certainly naive and careless, but it is a huge leap of logic to conclude that by consenting to sex with one of them, she was somehow responsible for being gang-raped by all five of them. By reporting the crime, she had to endure intense questioning from the defence lawyers who publicly made her out to be a ‘slut’ with ‘loose morals’, someone they described as partially responsible for her own rape, thereby lessening the culpability of her rapists. Is it any surprise then that most survivors would rather keep silent than endure this potential public humiliation and victim-blaming?
Which is missing the point.
As I pointed out in my 

original post

, the court needs proof that she was raped. The standards of rape are higher than that of aggravated sexual assault. The prosecution must prove that the accused forced themselves on the victim and that the victim did not give consent. The prosecution also must show when this happened. The victim in the case approached the men and played drinking games with them (she was 17, and the drinking age is 18). She said she consented to have sex with one of them, but only after being pressured and under the influence of alcohol. Everybody in the case  wasn’t sober, if not exactly drunk, compromising recall. Therefore, it’s extremely difficult to prove when the line between consent and nonconsent was crossed – and therefore, difficult to make a rape conviction.
Further complicating matters is that the girl went to the men. She only knew one of them. That man called the girl and invited her for supper. One of the other four men met her. The girl followed the stranger to the flat, where they played drinking games, and the crime happened. Most girls would go straight home when met with a stranger, and most girls wouldn’t play drinking games with strangers. While this incident does not show that she wanted to have sex, it doesn’t show that she didn’t want to have sex as well. Since the girl didn’t tell the world what was on her mind, her actions are a matter of debate. Li apparently quoted the defence lawyers, but she didn’t quote the prosecution’s response.
All this made it difficult to prove when the line between consent and nonconsent was crossed. The prosecutor could not prove when it happened, so he could not make the rape charges stick. By lowering the charges, the prosecutor managed to make the men pay.
It’s not about victim blaming; it’s about standards of law. 
The second example Li brings up is used to shore up a difficult argument. She returns to the case of the lawyer and the employee, saying that victim blaming meant the accused got away.
First, she said there was a ‘major flaw in the accused’s alibi’. If so, she didn’t say what it was. Because she didn’t, this is not acceptable in an argument.
Secondly, she argued that the victim’s inconsistent testimonials was not a reason to reject the case. These three testimonials are:
“the accused “tried to kiss her”, that he “had in fact kissed her on her lips” and that he “had inserted his tongue into her mouth and had tried to roll her tongue with his tongue.”
She said that the Disciplinary Committee (DC) rejected these accounts “due to their insistence on absolute consistency”. Granted, victims of sexual assault – of any crime – may have difficulties remembering what happened. But presented this way, it seems that the victim was trying to embellish what happened. Li says the events are similar. But I don’t think ‘tried to kiss’ is similar to ‘kiss’, and kissing someone on the lips is different from kissing someone with tongue action. The actions are so mechanically different, and implications vastly different, that they can’t be ‘similar’. 

Li says

Surely it is understandable that sexual assault survivors may give slightly different accounts due to their embarassment at the time of questioning
It may be understandable, but it is not acceptable. Bad liars and criminals do the same thing too, changing their stories when questioned repeatedly, to protect someone or turn the police against someone. And people in the justice system work with criminals and liars all the time. If a bunch of lawyers are faced with something that looks like criminal behaviour, they are more inclined to assume that the person is lying.

Finally, Li took offence with the way the DC described Koh under cross-examination.

Thirdly, the DC described the Complainant as “[showing] resilience under cross-examination and at various points [reacting] with anger or annoyance”. Using the illogical reasoning that ‘strong’, ‘resilent’ individuals cannot be sexually assaulted, they then concluded that “we find it difficult to fully accept that such an individual would put up with an assault on her”. The decision-makers seemed unaware that even ‘resilient’ people may behave in non-typical ways when confronted with traumatic sexual assault.

I agree with this statement. Having a resilient personality does not make anyone proof against violence. That being said, there is one problem here: some liars tend to get angry or annoyed when cross-examined.

If you look at all three arguments as a whole, just based on what Li picked, you can see the profile of a liar. Someone who gives inconsistent and poorly-detailed stories, who then cracks under pressure. I’m not saying that Koh is a liar. There is no evidence that shows that she was definitely lying. But what I am saying is that Koh’s behaviour, as quoted by Li, is very similar to that of a liar. Li didn’t provide any evidence that Koh acted to the contrary. The DC cannot judge a lawyer guilty of molest based on the testimony of someone whose behaviour resembles that of a liar. While the DC can’t prove Koh is a liar, the DC can’t prove that Koh is telling the truth either.

Just one more thing on this case: the link she provided gave no details of what actually occurred. Were transcripts available, I would have gone through them the way I looked over the IVAWS report, to gain a better understanding of the situation.

Now let’s leave aside discussion of these two cases. Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that victim blaming did indeed influence the outcomes of these cases. In that case, all Li has proven is that in two separate cases, there may have been evidence that the authorities were blaming the victim. Li has not conclusively proven the existence of a widespread culture of victim blaming, nor has she proven that the legal system has entrenched a culture of victim blaming. She needs to show this through studies of court cases and the application of the law over the years. She has not. Therefore, she has not proven that widespread victim blaming exists.

Rape kit before police report?

Li says that rape victims should be allowed to take a rape kit before making a police report, “which can be a difficult decision to make within the 72 hours following the attack”. (She doesn’t say which; I’m assuming the police report.)

I don’t think it’s a bad idea. But her suggestion, by itself, opens a loophole for women to uniquely exploit against men.

Here’s a scenario. The husband of a married woman is stationed overseas for a few months, and she’s getting lonely. So she goes to a bar, and is sweet-talked by a dashing young man. They have a one-night stand. In the morning, she regrets her decision to have sex with a stranger. She heads to the nearest hospital and takes a rape kit. Armed with forensic evidence, she goes to the police and reports she’s been raped. As the police now have  ‘proof’ of rape, they are duty-bound to pursue the handsome stranger and arrest him for rape.

How does Li propose preventing this or similar events from happening? Police reports don’t just register offences. The police officers screen the complainant too. The cops taking down the statement need to make sure it’s not a false statement, too. This, among other reasons, is why some countries require victims to file a police report first.

Let’s assume now that the handsome stranger is arrested. He needs to prove that the sex act was consensual, and that his accuser was lying. In Singapore, the best defence I can think of is to evoke Section 157(d) of the Evidence Act, or a variant thereof.  Except that, Li wants this section repealed. So, without such a defence, the man needs to prove he didn’t force himself on her – which can be challenging, especially if she falsified signs of struggle. The case may be eventually thrown out of court, but at that point, the man’s reputation would have been destroyed and his bank account drained by legal expenses. Not exactly an ideal outcome.

I’m not saying that allowing rape kits before making a police report is wrong. What I am saying is that Li’s argument is incomplete. She needs to address the flaw mentioned above before policymakers will take it seriously.

Everything else…

Li raised a few other suggestions: sensitivity training for police officers and medical personnel, better support for groups like SABS, education to curb rape, criminalise marital rape, greater awareness of post-crime human psychology, and more research on sexual violence.

And I agree. I don’t actually see anything wrong with these proposals, so long as facts – not dogma, actual facts – are passed on.


Li’s work is built on incomplete thinking. Her point that knowledge of future trauma prevents women from reporting rapes is unsound, because this presumes that the average woman actually knows the nitty-gritty details of post-rape legal and medical procedures. Li says that Section 157(d) of the Evidence Act must be repealed, yet it is the same law that protects men from false accusations. Li claims there is a culture of victim blaming, but the cases she cites does not prove that such a culture exists, and the behaviour of the prosecutor and the DC can be explained more clearly without the victim blaming hypothesis. Finally, Li argues that women should be allowed to take rape kits before making a police report, but doesn’t propose a means to prevent criminal abuse – especially since she proposes to remove a law that prevents this.

Which is not to say I disagree totally with her. I agree that a lot of rape victims know their attackers, and victims should stop protecting their attackers are start prosecuting them. I agree with her other suggestions about training police and medical staff to be more sensitive, improving rape help groups, and increased research and awareness of sexual violence.

Nevertheless, I must disagree with Li. Her work has so many holes in it, it sadly resembles every major argument ever raised by straw feminists on sexual violence. That is, so-called feminists who only exist in fiction solely to be made fun of. This article looks like a call to dogma, twisting facts to suit its ends, not a careful analysis of reality

I don’t doubt that many victims of sexual assault don’t speak up about their experiences, and  I think there are public policy solutions to reduce the overall sexual assault rates. But you can’t implement policies on shoddy arguments, and you can’t change the world effectively without first understanding it.

The Spectre of Incomplete Thinking

10 thoughts on “The Spectre of Incomplete Thinking

  1. Oddly enough, I found your own arguments to be as incomplete, if not more, than the original article you “attacked”.

    I could go through it piece by piece, and may just, tomorrow, if I have time. If not, I would at least suggest you reconsider a few statements you make along the lines of justification in your thinking being that surely this kind of thing is impossible.

    “‘Sexual violence’ therefore is not rape.”
    Well, is the definition of rape you are using a legal definition? In which case you need to refer directly to the definition in Singapore law. Also perhaps for interest, look up the definition in Northern Territory law (Aust) as you will discover the definition of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault here covers most of these IWAWS categories.

    “How about the notion that the majority of rapes go unreported?”
    By that definition (Li’s original wording) simply 51% of rapes go unreported.

    “Naturally, unreported rapes can’t possibly be so high.”
    Naturally? By which natural law are you referring?

    “almost 19000 will be raped this year.”

    Not necessarily, even if your formula (which I disagree with) is accurate, it means 19000 RAPES will go unreported. A victim to be raped once and only once is not the only way rapes occur. Without going and doing the research for exact figures, (too late, and if you make statements like this, it is your homework not mine if you want your audience to respect you as a writer) plenty of victims get raped more than once in an entire year.”

    “It is ridiculous to think that so many women will be raped in a city of some 7 million without anybody noticing and without police and civil resources stretched beyond the breaking point.”
    Ridiculous? I am so sorry, but if you think every incidence of sexual assault (I prefer that more legally specific term because it encompasses a more realistic definition for physical, social and psychological impact than “rape”) brings a tax on the police force and civil resources that is overtly attributable to rape you really need to do more research into it, preferably with people who are working “At the coalface” and see everyday the impact it has on their victims. And, for the record, the attempts so many many of them make to hide that impact through the intense shame and fear.

    “The average Singaporean woman would not be aware of the trauma she may experience during medical examinations, police interviews, and courtroom examinations until she is actually undergoing them. She might know of the procedures, to be sure, but not about the feeling of having to answer difficult questions by stone-faced men following the most violent incident of her life.”

    Believe me, the average Australian woman has absolutely no idea until she is in the thick of it, of exactly what is entailed in reporting a rape. But that doesn’t mean they are more likely to report, In my experience of what other women (and men) who’ve been sexually assaulted, they didn’t report it because of intense fear about what they will have to go through if they do report it. They have no idea what will happen, and most envision you have to literally walk up to the police station counter and announce you have been raped.
    They have no idea that in a criminal investigation, they are the ones totally in charge as to how far it goes. They have no idea of the level of support and understanding the police can have, (ok so no policeperson is perfect, but many – and many women – have been trained specifically in understanding the realities of the impact of sexual assault on such vitally important things like reliability of memory etc.)
    They have no education to understand just how healing it can be to have a policeperson take their statement and say “What this person did to you was a very serious crime.”
    In short, their imagination is often far far worse than the reality is probably going to be, and puts them off reporting.

    That is, if they even think of it before they get in the shower. You would have to go through it to be able to comprehend the intensity of desperation to try to *clean* yourself after a sexual assault. Clean and clean and clean, knowing you can never clean yourself, you will never be able to succeed in “cleaning” yourself, but you desperately try anyway.

    The idea that a woman has to report to the police before they do the medical, is barbaric. Quite literally barbaric.
    And the more women that know that, (though you argue there are few that do) the less, I would strongly suggest, are likely to report. Or be even thinking straight enough after such a horrific experience, to be able to make the very important, life-changing decision to report or not report. And 72 hrs to make this decision after a physical and psychological trauma such as sexual assualt, is just unrealistic.

    And affects adversely the reporting rate.

    For the record, just in my personal life, discounting people I met through sexual assault support services, I know upward of 20 men and women who have been sexually assaulted (most more than once) and only myself and one other women ever reported it.
    If you are wondering how I know so many people who have been sexually assaulted? I don’t. Having been through the legal system over it, I don’t bother being secretive about it. I dare the shame inside me to stop me from talking about something that had such a huge impact on my life. And in being open myself, so many people share their story with me.

    You seem to be asserting the statement “the majority of crimes go unreported” can’t be true, because, as far as I can see, you just find it hard to comprehend the world could be that harsh to so many people that they wouldn’t report such a serious crime, and could hide it from official statistics so well. That suggests you are fundamentally a nice person 🙂

    However, similar thinking is all through this post. You are kinda naive and aren’t challenging your own presumptions. Hey, I am sure I am exactly the same in some areas, but certainly not sexual assault!

    I guess I only wrote this because simply through the way I met you, I am prepared to give you the benefit of the doubt.

    1. Thanks for reading this through. I’m going to use ‘rape’ here, because I’m still addressing Li’s post in my essay, and everything she writes about seems to conflate ‘rape’ with ‘sexual violence’.

      Point: After re-reading what I wrote, I realised I made a very big mistake in the beginning of the essay. I thought Li used the 70+% as figures for sexual assault. She didn’t. I’ve corrected that section accordingly. But I’ll still take your points.

      You asked me about the use of the term ‘sexual violence’, specifically about my statement that sexual violence is not rape. I was referring to how IVAWS used to the term, explained in the quote box. IVAWS included molest and attempted rape, in addition to rape. Going through the essay, though, I realised that part was mostly irrelevant, so I got rid of it.

      Thanks for pointing out that number of rapes does not mean number of women raped. I was writing in reference to the IVAWS report. The way I read it, ‘victimisation rate’ was referring to the number of women who were attacked, and that was what I was referring to.

      I believe I made a statement about stretching police and civil resources to their breaking point, which you brought up. Since it couldn’t be proven, I deleted it (among others).

      You asked about the use of the word ‘naturally’. I used it in reference to the previous paragraph, i.e. 19000 rapes in a city of 7 million without anybody noticing. Nevertheless, I got rid of the word for clarity.

      You said you had issues with the formula I used. So did I, actually. I basically multiplied population by crime percentage. The idea was to give Li the most benefit of the doubt, while still showing her how the figures she uses can’t back up her arguments. If there’s a better formula, I’d love to hear it.

      Here’s some context on Singapore: Singapore has among the world’s lowest crime rates. Singapore has one of the world’s most efficient police forces. Poverty is almost (but not) nonexistent. Social divides are tolerable. 32986 crimes were reported in 2010, a decrease of 0.6% from 2009. The police didn’t release figures relating to sexual assaults (except statutory rape) in 2010; the closest was an overall increase of 8% of crimes against persons, and 11% rise of cases of outrage of modesty (an increase of 151 cases – which works out to 1373 cases in total). In 2009, the police said there were 202 rapes. So, assuming an increase of 11%, that would be 224 rapes.

      Is it logical to assume that there can be anywhere close to 19000 sexual assaults in one year alone? That’s an 84-fold increase from the reported rapes. It’s fairly implausible to assume such a figure exists in a country with low and decreasing crime rates, low sexual assault rates, effective police forces, and near-absence of crime-causing factors. Arguably, the only statistic that supports an increasing number of unreported rapes is the increasing number of reported rapes, as Li said. Now, I’m not saying that there are no unreported rapes; I’m not even saying that the number of unreported rapes outnumber that of reported ones; I’m saying that extrapolation from irrelevant statistics paints an unrealistic picture given the national context.

      You said that of the 20 people you know have been sexually assaulted, only 2 have reported the crime. That’s a figure of nine in ten sexual assaults going unreported – over a lifetime. I’m sure the number should still be higher than that – call it one in two hundred. Maybe more.

      That’s because this is a figure I can swallow. There’s data that suggests such high figures are plausible. Australia has 22 million people – which means a fair number of criminals. The Australian government’s latest crime figures (from 2007 – can’t find any recent figures) say there are some 1600 sexual assault victims per month – which means a fairly high incidence of sexual assault per month. Which is 19200 victims a year – and incidentally almost the same as the hypothetical figure above. The number of people accused of crimes are trending upwards, 4.8% in 2010/11 – therefore, crime is on the rise. And that’s just what is reported.

      In Australia’s case, there is relevant data to suggest that there are a very large number of sexual assault victims, and the conditions exist to allow for that. As you’ve pointed out, there are more unreported sexual assaults than reported ones. If anybody wants to use data to say that there are a lot of unreported sexual assaults, they need to use relevant data.

      The point about the majority of rapes going unreported not being true must have been poor communication on my part. I wanted to say that using irrelevant data does not show that the majority of crimes go unreported. Something got lost somewhere between my fingers and my brain. I’ve changed the post accordingly.

      And now, to talk about the points that still remain in the essay.

      You said that women not knowing the trauma of post-rape medical and legal procedure does not mean an increased reporting rate of rape. I agree. But I didn’t say that lack of knowledge means increased reporting rates. I merely said that Li’s argument assumes that there was knowledge to begin with, and I was taking issue with that.

      You have a valid point about imagination. But Li said that the knowledge of rape reporting put them off reporting rape. That’s why I made the point about knowledge. But, hey, I’ll mention your point on imagination just because I haven’t seen it before around here.

      And now, to address what you said about me. I’m sorry to say, you’ve misread me quite a fair bit.

      You said I “just find it hard to comprehend the world could be that harsh to so many people that they wouldn’t report such a serious crime”.

      I’ve seen this in action. Had a front-row seat, even. Multiple times. I know the world is so harsh to people that they wouldn’t report serious crimes. The issue isn’t hiding crimes from statistics; the issue is drawing meaning from statistics.

      You said “you are kinda naive and aren’t challenging your own presumptions.”

      Actually, I make it a point to challenge my presumptions when writing and meditating. Please look at the first paragraph.

      Oh, you haven’t pointed out what these presumptions are. If you’re referring to thinking the world isn’t a harsh place, refer to the previous.

      You said, “That suggests you are fundamentally a nice person.”


      You said you’re willing to give me the benefit of the doubt because of the way we met. So am I. It’s nothing personal – just that over 95% of the people who criticised me on my blog invariably had nothing but vitriol to throw at me, based on false understanding of what I wrote for various reasons.

      Also, you didn’t try to flame me.

      I must say, though, this was the worst essay I’ve ever written in my five years of blogging. I’ve never had to change an entire section before. Next time, I shouldn’t write when I’m sleep-deprived and distracted. Your comment made me go through the essay and I corrected it accordingly.

  2. Hi Benjamin,
    “I shouldn’t write when I’m sleep-deprived and distracted. Your comment made me go through the essay and I corrected it accordingly.”
    Snap! I wrote my response at 11pm last night and when rereading it I thought “Oh I expressed some things poorly!”

    Ok, taking your reply from the top:

    I had issues with the formula you used, not least from having no idea what you did to arrive at those figures. I had presumed that since Li’s claim was “The majority of rapes go unreported” that a minimum of 51% are unreported. I couldn’t see any figure in yours or Li’s post about the number of rapes reported in Singapore but you’ve supplied is an estimate of 224 rapes in 2010. I would simply have said “well, if that is 49% of all rapes occurring the lowest figure Li is claiming for overall rapes in Singapore is 450, 226 of these were unreported.
    I’m not claiming this is a perfect formula, just how I would have interpreted Li’s claims myself. I would be interested in finding out from Li herself how she would work it out.

    Thanks for the context regarding Singapore. One of the reasons I was interested in reading your blog is almost everyone I know has been to Singapore, for a visit, or in few cases, only passing through your apparently fantastic airport 😀 Darwin is extremely close to South East Asia, geographically, and socially.
    The descriptions of Singapore, and life there, sound very interesting and there is obviously a very different approach to law and order there. Much stricter in a lot of ways, resulting in things that probably wouldn’t be tolerated in Australia. [as an aside, for eg someone explained the laws pertaining to mosquito larvae and standing water. We have the same issues regarding mosquito-born disease and the need to eliminate standing water. I was told by a woman whose daughter lives there, that you can get very hefty on the spot finds for even standing water in a plant pot tray, and there are random inspections on private property. Much as I hate mosquitoes and their diseases, I can’t imagine too many Darwinites accepting that sort of policing happen as a matter of course. O_o]

    “You said that of the 20 people you know have been sexually assaulted, only 2 have reported the crime. That’s a figure of one in ten sexual assaults going unreported – over a lifetime.”

    No no no, you have misread. 20 people I know have been sexually assaulted. Only 2 have reported. In this sample 9 out of 10 people have NOT reported sexual assault. Ouch.

    “Or a year, if the twenty of them were attacked in the same year. I’m sure the number should still be higher than that – call it one in two hundred. Maybe more.”

    For the record, most of them were sexually assaulted as children, and most children (so I understand) are rarely assaulted only once, for various reasons, and often never report it as adults. There are lots of reasons why the non-reporting of child sexual assault goes unreported, some of them significantly different to adult sexual assault non-reporting issues. Li seemed to be referring to both, which certainly needs to be taken into account when verifying her claims too And perhaps, given the issues surrounding non-reporting of child sexual assault, this may help lend weight to her claims. If you addressed this side of it in your post I didn’t pick up on it.

    [regarding my own anecdotal evidence, I probably have (sure as hell hope I have!) a biased sample given that I am known for openly discussing this stuff, I may be drawing people who have experienced sexual assault to me in greater concentration than the general populace.
    Also understand the Northern Territory is unusual in Australia in that the indigenous population is near 1/4. And the incidents of sexual assault are thought to be a lot higher for indigenous people than in non-indigenous populations.
    So to use my anectodal figures to extrapolate out (which you weren’t really! I am just following the thread of thought) isn’t going to be accurate.
    I merely mentioned this as an example of just how significant the concept of non-reporting of rapes is.]

    “In Australia’s case, there is relevant data to suggest that there are a very large number of sexual assault victims, and the conditions exist to allow for that.”

    This and your following point regarding different conditions in Singapore is the kind of thing I was hoping to find on your blog. I didn’t really. Perhaps to you, as a Singaporean it is clear to you what you are explaining about the different conditions, but to an outsider such as me, it isn’t really clear at all.
    However Li seemed to be using fairly conventional western paradigm (for want of a better word) to discuss the issue of sexual assault in Singapore, and from there touching on issues specific to Singapore. But your post did not explain clearly to me why you felt her interpretation of these issues were not valid.
    I know you were addressing a fellow-Singaporean’s essay, so I am probably peeking in on an insider-to-insider conversation.
    And it is entirely your call, of course, if your blog is aimed at Singaporeans, for Singaporeans or if you are looking to have a more global (or even regional, noting we are in the same region!) reach in your blogging.

    “But Li said that the knowledge of rape reporting put them off reporting rape. ”
    Ah, good point!

    “You said I “just find it hard to comprehend the world could be that harsh to so many people that they wouldn’t report such a serious crime”.

    I’ve seen this in action. Had a front-row seat, even. Multiple times. I know the world is so harsh to people that they wouldn’t report serious crimes. The issue isn’t hiding crimes from statistics; the issue is drawing meaning from statistics.”

    Ok, fair enough, point taken. I would then perhaps modify my comment to “The way you come across in this essay is as someone who finds it hard to comprehend… etc”
    However, I know how writing late and night can make one seem less on the money than they really are 😛 so hey!

    “Actually, I make it a point to challenge my presumptions when writing and meditating. Please look at the first paragraph.”

    Lol, good on you! And to be honest, I am a writer and editor by trade and my overwhelming response to your post was “I reckon you can do better than that!”
    I hope you don’t find that presumption – and the presumption that I might be able to add to the quality of your post – offensive. It wasn’t meant to be that way at all. I was worried about that after I posted my comment. *meep*

    “Oh, you haven’t pointed out what these presumptions are. ”

    Yeah… I could do so, but don’t have time today, and probably won’t for a few days. And you have edited the post so what I was referring to may no longer be there. If you are interested I can take the time to do so. But honestly, if you aren’t that interested, I don’t have much energy to spare and am happy to let this issue slide on my part.

    “… just that over 95% of the people who criticised me on my blog invariably had nothing but vitriol to throw at me, based on false understanding of what I wrote for various reasons.”

    Gack. Yeah, I write a sewing blog, and it is usually a fairly nice environment but some people get off on saying pretty nasty stuff about peoples’ bodies and trying to erode their own healthy acceptance of their body shape,and one wonky seam in an entire intricately-sewn garment. Sheesh. Icky.

    “Also, you didn’t try to flame me.”

    *grins* yeah coz flaming is BORING as hell. Discussing stuff like this is waaaay more fun!

    “I must say, though, this was the worst essay I’ve ever written in my five years of blogging.”

    No worries! Like I said, I too am a writer and an editor and I understand and have done the same plenty enough times. Writing is just one of those things you can only really learn on the job by making plenty of mistakes and learning from them. I like to think in 20 yrs time I will be one hell of a much better writer than it is even possible for me to be now. I dare say the same will apply to you 🙂


    1. Thanks for being civil with me. This is only the third time it’s happened to me in, oh, five years. And it’s not just because I don’t have the time to blog often.

      Regarding the formula, I think I understand where we’re coming from. I’ve basically deleted that section because I realise it’s taking things way overboard. Regarding Li’s claims about the majority of rapes, I don’t know how she got that too. I’m thinking she cribbed it from the 70-odd percentage people not reporting violent crimes – but that figure includes physical violence. The document she provided didn’t say how many sexual assault victims didn’t report the crimes.

      Li didn’t say anything child sexual assault. I didn’t cover that in my post as a result.

      I felt Li’s interpretation of the issue wasn’t complete. That is, she asserted that the majority of sexual assaults go unreported, but didn’t adequately demonstrate how that was possible. Sure, she has valid points about trauma. But she had to connect trauma to majority of assaults going unreported, and she didn’t provide any studies to prove it. She used the IVAWS survey report summary, which didn’t include such stats. I wished she had contacted the authors to get the stats.

      Regarding different conditions about crime, truth is, I’m not an expert. I’m looking for relevant data points, but there is nobody here who actually studies these things and make these findings wide-known. I don’t even know for certain what to look at. I put up stats on the effectiveness of police forces, crime rate trends, population density, and others because I sense they may have an impact on crime rates. I think there are other, less tangible influences too, such as city planning (many criminals like hiding in dark places to wait for victims; no dark places may lead to less crime), perceived police response, and cultural attitudes. If you know of any such relevant data, feel free to share.

      Thanks for the kind words. Here’s hoping we’ll evolve and realise our abilities to the fullest.

  3. Hey Benjamin

    Lisa Li here. Thank you for taking the time to address the article. I will respond to your points as soon as I can. Discussion is always good! 🙂 Btw, there is a MAJOR TYPO in my article which you rightly pointed out (my fault entirely). The case of the employee who couldn’t remember exact dates cited a period between October 1997 and February 1998 (NOT 2008!), so just approx 5 months, not 11 years! I’ve already informed the editor. Thanks for pointing out that very serious mistake. As for the details, yes I was citing from a full case log but only linked it to a brief summary of the decision. I am trying to see if it is available online. cheers.

  4. “The average Singaporean woman would not be aware of the trauma she may experience during medical examinations, police interviews, and courtroom examinations until she is actually undergoing them. She might know of the procedures, to be sure, but not about the feeling of having to answer difficult questions by stone-faced men following the most violent incident of her life.”

    Oh well, the fact that how society perceives rape victims has nothing to do with how a victim feels. No self-loathing, no self-blaming, nope, nothing of that sort. Yep, Singapore is a low-crime city, and by that same token, we are all babes in the woods and extremely naive when it comes to how society (and by that extension, us, our family, friends etc) views sexual crimes. Oh yeah, and we think that sexual violence is viewed the same as other forms of violence.

    Why don’t you conduct a simple survey among young women for starters, and find out how many will report a sexual violence? And how many will not because somehow it is their fault for inviting the said violence in the first place (which is your opinion in the first place, no?)?

    1. Sarcasm directed against anyone on this blog is grounds for deletion. So is going off the point and cherry picking quotes to suit what you feel instead of addressing what’s really been said. This is your only warning.

      I’m not going to conduct the survey, because I don’t have the time, resources, training or manpower to conduct a survey anytime soon. Plus, it seems such a survey has already been conducted, at a scale I can’t match.

      You seem to think I fault people for inviting violence into their lives. I do not. I recognise there are predators out there. People can’t control what they do or where they go. What people can control are their actions and mindsets. Certain actions and mindsets (wandering into high-crime areas alone late at night, drunk, assuming you won’t get attacked) attract the attention of predators. Others (scanning the environment, keeping well clear of suspicious places and people) give predators less of a reason to attack you. In short: if you act like a target, you become a target, and if a predator sees you, he’s likely to attack you. Conversely, if you don’t act like a target, a predator is less likely to go after you if he sees you.

  5. Look, this is your blog, and you, of course, are within your right to ban or allow comments, as you see fit. If you see sarcasm when none was intended, again it’s your prerogative. I was just pointing out that a lack of knowledge of police procedures does not mean that women are more likely to report rape. In fact, a more important factor would be how society views rape – if the victim feels that she is likely to be blamed or judged by family and society and maybe even the police for “inviting” the crime, then she is all the more likely to “sweep it under the carpet” no matter how difficult it may be.

    Whether you ban me, ignore or print this reply – frankly, it’s no skin off my nose (vice-versa). Have a good day.

    1. Athena, it’s really hard to take someone seriously when that person likes twisting your words around. I did not say that lack of knowledge of police procedures equals increased likelihood of reporting rape. I only said that Li’s argument about collective knowledge is false because there is no proof of such knowledge. And while how society views a crime may influence whether a victim will report it, nobody has yet to make a compelling case of widespread victim blaming in society beyond bold assertions or citations of isolated examples – something you did not appear to notice or address.

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