SINGAPORE — A Singapore Management University (SMU) business undergraduate accused of molesting a woman in a study room on campus maintained that the woman had been growing more comfortable with him and had not minded his advances despite her seeming resistance at the time of the incidents.
Taking the stand for the second day, Lee Yan Ru, 24, said that the 22-year-old woman had been “fine” with everything he had done to her on the wee hours of 8 January 2019, including touching her breasts, hugging her, and ticking her.
Lee is accused of rubbing his genitals on the woman as she lay on the floor of a study room in SMU at around 6.30am on 8 January 2019.
Starting his cross examination of Lee on Tuesday (6 April), Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Andre Chong painted Lee as a person who tailored his evidence to suit his case, from the moment he had his statement taken, to his examination by his counsel on Monday, to his cross examination today. In reply, Lee denied changing his evidence, claiming that he was simply trying to recall details to the best that he can at every stage.
About an hour into proceedings, the alleged victim entered the court room to attend the trial as a member of the public. The case was stood down for a while before the District Judge allowed the woman to remain, subject to being recalled as a prosecution witness.
It was also revealed that at the time Lee was talking to the woman, between 1 and 7 January 2019, he had a girlfriend who was not aware that he was exchanging messages with the woman. Lee said that he had not told his girlfriend because she did not like him talking to other girls.
Woman did not rebuff my advances: accused
DPP Chong stated that throughout Lee’s interaction with the woman, she had alternately pushed him away, or used her hand to block his tickles and - at one point - hugged a table leg when Lee tried to pull her back under the table. However, Lee maintained that the woman had been fine with the actions, even though she had not expressly given consent.
The prosecutor started off by asking Lee his understanding of consent. Asked DPP Chong, “Lets talk about who bears the burden of obtaining consent, if I want to do something to you, it is my job to get your consent before I do it?” Lee replied yes.
The DPP then asked, “If I want to do something to you but I didn’t get your consent in advance, does it mean that it is your job to ensure that you say no, assuming you don’t want to do it."
Lee replied, “Yes it will be my job to ensure I say no”
The DPP asked, “If I don’t ask you I wouldn’t know that you are consenting right?”, prompting Lee to say, “Well it depends still on the place you ask me, the environment we were in, any setting between us.”
DPP asked “Your position is that even if I don’t ask you I could still know for a fact that you consent because I could read your mind perhaps."
Lee replied, “It’s not about reading my mind, it’s knowing where we are at that point in time…the whole mood between both of us”. He later added that one could have a feeling of certainty regarding consent.
We were getting more intimate with each other: Accused
Pointing to the incident under the table when the woman allegedly said she would "hit and punch" Lee if he tickled her, DPP Chong asked which part of her response said she was fine with being tickled.
Lee said the woman's tone told him she was fine with the interaction. "You weren’t there at the time, I could feel that she was fine with it," he told the DPP.
Based on the alleged victim blocking Lee's attempts to tickle her, she clearly did not want Lee touch her, the DPP told Lee, who disagreed.
The DPP also pointed out that Lee had said in his statement he could not remember if he had touched the woman's bare breasts beneath her sports bra, but that he had said he was crystal clear that he had only touched her breasts over her bra during trial.
"(The statement was) given on the very day of incident, you agree that your memory would be clearest at the point but you told us in this statement you can’t remember... how is it that three years after the incident you are crystal clear at this point you only touched her breast over her bra?"
Lee said, "At that point in time I was scared but I was trying to remember as much as I can at that point in time... I cannot remember properly then afterwards. I remember that I didn’t do it then I let my lawyers know about it."
DPP Chong suggested that Lee was "blatantly lying". "Your memory doesn’t miraculously put itself together, memories fade with passage of time."
He then asked Lee if he asked for her consent to touch her breast. Lee replied that he did not.
However, when the DPP said that the woman would have been "deeply uncomfortable", Lee said no.
"Since the time he came in...we studied, talked about music, had playful banter when I had my feet on her it was all progressive till the time the movie ended then I touched her right breast ...then left breast she is completely fine with it," he said.
He added, "The whole night (it was a) progressive thing, (we both were) getting more comfortable and more intimate with each other. We both feel that ...it's a growing thing between us."
The cross examination continues on Tuesday afternoon.
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