In a bid to make Malaysian schools safer for students, a media executive decided to create an online space for students to come forward with stories of sexual harassment. In just two weeks, the @Savetheschoolsmy Instagram page received hundreds of submissions.
“My ustaz (religious teacher) used to make rape and sexual jokes during my class,” one of them read, while another said, “Back then when I was in primary school, boys my age will make sexual sounds as jokes and they’ll [laugh] it off.”
Page creator Puteri Nuraaina Balqis, 26, decided to create the account on April 27 amid controversies concerning alleged menstruation spot checks in schools and teachers telling rape jokes – both spawning the #MakeSchoolASaferPlace online movement. To date, Puteri, who is from Taiping, Perak, has posted 200 horror stories she said came from former and current students all over the country, recounting incidents of sexual abuse and harassment. Over 2,000 people are following the account.
“Within 24 hours of creating the page, I received 50 submissions,” she said. Seven new submissions were added to her collection of nearly 500 stories this morning.
“I’m glad that people are willing and unafraid to share their experiences, but it’s way more than I expected,” she said.
The idea for the Instagram page came about when she became “pissed off” by the numerous attempts made by people online to invalidate famed student activist Ain Husniza, 17, after the SMK Puncak Alam student spoke out against her teacher for telling a rape joke in class.
“Ain shared that a group of teachers had started a rumor saying she’s autistic, so people shouldn’t take her seriously,” Puteri said. “That to me is super messed up because so what if she is [autistic], that doesn’t mean the rape joke didn’t happen.”
“People need to know that this is definitely an issue. Just because it didn’t happen to you, doesn’t mean it’s not happening to other people,” Puteri added.
Ain has filed a police report over her teacher as well as against the rape threat she received in response to her TikTok video. Her school has also threatened to expel her for being absent from school. Her father told Coconuts that his daughter did not feel safe about returning to school.
Puteri collects the anonymous submissions via a Google form. Other than stories of harassment, some also talked about being groomed. The various issues affected both genders, Puteri said.
“The numbers are smaller, but more male victims are speaking up about their experiences,” she said. An example would be a student who was blamed for being “too soft” when he complained to a school counselor about being touched inappropriately by his fellow male classmates.
Another submission was about a female student who was sexually groomed by an ustazah (female religious teacher).
“She gave me flying kisses and called us lovers,” the anonymous poster said. “She called me sexy after a peck on the cheek… I used to feel glad when she called me baby.”
A few of these confessions have named their respective schools and perpetrators, according to Puteri. Lawyers have also reached out offering legal help.
“Pro-bono lawyers have reached out to me with offers for legal aid just in case the page gets sued for defamation, or if people attempt to hunt down the victims,” Puteri said.
She has not received feedback from the Ministry of Education regarding the page. Senior Education Minister Radzi Jidin previously denied there were period spot checks, stories of which surfaced last month, were happening in schools.
“The authorities are good at what they do – doing nothing,” Puteri later remarked.
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This article, Hundreds come forward with stories of sexual harassment in schools: ‘SaveTheSchoolsMY’ creator, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company.