Singapore: 70% of tech-enabled sexual violence cases in 2021 image-related

While attending an online event hosted on video conferencing platform Zoom last year, a woman in her 30s received private messages from two other event participants who asked to see her undressed.

Although she immediately informed the event organizer, no action was taken against the senders of these messages. The woman left the event early to avoid further harassment.

This was one of the cases mentioned by the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) on April 20 when it released last year’s figures of technology-facilitated sexual violence.

Aware did not provide further details about the case to protect the identity of the victim.

The association said seven in 10 cases of technology-facilitated sexual violence seen last year involved image-based sexual abuse, including non-consensual distribution of sexual images such as revenge porn, according to the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware).

This is the highest proportion of image-based sexual abuse cases seen to date by the gender equality group’s Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC).

Aware said that image-based sexual abuse cases were a steadily growing subset of technology-facilitated cases of sexual violence.

In 2020, 65% of technology-facilitated sexual violence cases seen by SACC were image-based sexual abuse cases, up from 61% in 2019.

Technology-facilitated sexual violence is unwanted sexual behavior carried out via digital platforms such as digital cameras, social media, messaging platforms and dating and ride-hailing apps.

It includes image-based sexual abuse, which involves sexual, nude or intimate photos or videos of another person.

Taking upskirt videos, hacking into a victim’s device to retrieve such images or sending a victim pornography or obscene photos are all considered instances of image-based sexual abuse, according to Aware.

Overall, Aware’s SACC saw 163 new cases of technology-facilitated sexual violence last year, down from 191 cases in 2020.

Of the 163 technology-facilitated sexual violence cases last year, the perpetrator was someone known to the victim in 134 cases.

The remaining 29 cases involved strangers or cases in which the perpetrator’s identity was not disclosed to SACC.

About 40% of the victims were between 18 and 24 years old, while 32% were 25 to 34.

Shailey Hingorani, Aware’s Head of Research and Advocacy, said the pace at which sexual violence evolves and adapts to new technologies and platforms makes it tough for researchers and support service providers to keep up.