SINGAPORE — The National University of Singapore (NUS) has opened a Victim Care Unit (VCU) to provide confidential and professional care to victims of sexual misconduct in the university.
The unit was launched on Thursday (29 August), and is the first of its kind in Singapore.
It is led by Associate Professor Sandy Lam, a faculty member at NUS Business School’s Department of Management and Organisation, known for her work in the area of disrespectful or uncivil behaviour, including sexual misconduct.
“We are here to give [victims] a helping hand, so that they have someone to talk to in a safe environment, and to help them along in the recovery process,” the VCU director said in an NUS News report on Thursday.
VCU’s service is open to all students, as well as administrative and research staff. Victims can contact the unit via a 24-hour hotline, a confidential online contact form or email.
They will then be connected to a care officer, who will work with them to identify pressing needs and resources. If necessary, the care officer will also liaise with other units or agencies on their behalf, including referring them to counsellors.
Should a student want to report the sexual misconduct to NUS Campus Security or the police, the care officer will accompany the student and stay through the interview process.
However, the reporting of cases will be the decision of the student in question.
Currently, there are five care officers in the unit, all of whom were chosen for their experience in helping victims from multiple backgrounds, varying ethnicities, identities and orientations.
They also have experience as counsellors, and will continue to follow up with victims for as long as needed. Should the victims need support after they leave the university, the VCU will help to identify resources outside the school.
“We want to encourage students to feel empowered to report the cases. We want to work with the student to make sure he or she is prepared and feel comfortable enough to do so,” said Assoc Prof Lim.
She emphasised that cases of students who approach the VCU are not bound by location or time. This would include situations that occurred off-campus, in a different country or in the past.
“As long as they are students of NUS, they can come to us for support, regardless of who the perpetrators are or where the incidents happened,” she said in the NUS News report.
The setting up the VCU was sparked by a public backlash in April, when NUS student Monica Baey called for “justice” against a fellow student for filming her showering in an NUS hostel. The perpetrator was given 12-month conditional warning from police and was suspended from school for a semester.
After Education Minister Ong Ye Kung described NUS’ penalties as “manifestly inadequate”, the university set up a review committee on sexual misconduct, which eventually recommended tougher penalties for offenders and better support for the victims, among other proposed measures.