SMU molest trial: Alleged victim participated in 'physical banter' with accused, defence claims

(Yahoo News Singapore file photo)
(Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — The woman accusing a Singapore Management University (SMU) undergraduate of molesting her while she slept had participated in “physical banter” with the man throughout the night before the incident, the man’s lawyer claimed on Wednesday (9 September).

“You actually consented (to the activities). I put to you that throughout the night you were a participant in physical banter with Yan Ru.... Agree or disagree?” asked lawyer Thong Chee Kun, who is representing the 24-year-old accused Lee Yan Ru in the case.

In reply, the 22-year-old woman pointed out that she had repeatedly rejected Lee’s advances by pushing him away, telling him to go away and to stop his actions.

Lee has claimed trial to one count of molesting the woman, whom he met through the Instagram photo-sharing app around one to two weeks before the incident on 8 January last year.

He is accused of rubbing his genitals on the woman’s chest at 6.30am while in a study room at SMU. Due to a gag order, the woman, who is from a private university, cannot be named.

Second day on the stand

According to the woman, she had met Lee at around 1am at SMU to do work and Lee led her to the study room. While in the room, Lee allegedly made multiple unwanted advances towards the woman, including hugging her, groping her breasts and attempting to kiss her while placing his penis on her thigh.

While the woman said she rebuffed his advances, she maintained that she did not take further action for fear of offending or embarrassing Lee. She repeatedly claimed that she did not verbalise her objections to his advances as she thought her actions were enough to put him off.

Defence counsel Thong latched onto this point on Wednesday – the second day into the woman’s cross examination – to build on his argument that the woman had not outrightly stopped Lee from escalating his actions that night.

Referring to the moment when Lee allegedly stood between her legs as she was seated on a table and placed his penis on her thigh, Thong asked the woman whether she thought that Lee’s intention was to engage in sexual activity with her.

Initially, the woman maintained that the thought had not crossed her mind. While she did not actually see Lee’s exposed genitals, she had felt something “warm” on her thigh.

“I just thought that he was trying to be funny or trying his luck. It didn’t cross my mind that he wanted to have (sexual activity),” she said.

“Taking into account I had little sleep that night, it just didn’t occur to me maybe he was just trying to elicit a response. It just didn’t cross my mind,” she added.

When pressed by Thong what she thought Lee was trying to do, the woman replied, “I really have no clue. Trying to arouse me maybe.”

She eventually agreed that she thought Lee intentions might have been sexual.

After each incident of harassment, the woman maintained that she did not think of stopping the man from making further advances on her as she “did not think that he would try again”. Thong then pointed out that the harassment kept taking place despite her cues.

“He did it again and again, so you would have been proven wrong by the second time. So by the second time, did you think that you wanted to stop him from engaging in any physical activity with you at the time?”

The woman replied, “The second time I did not think there would be third time so I didn’t stop him the second time.”

“Maybe I’m just someone who gives many chances, I was just being too nice about it,” she added.

When asked by Thong whether she thought that Lee was obviously not getting the message, the woman replied that she didn’t know.

“I was tired. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that,” the woman said.

This led Thong to retort, “I’ll tell you why... you actually consented to all these activities. I put to you that throughout the night you were a participant (in) this physical banter with Yan Ru. That must be the reality.”

The woman disagreed and claimed, “If I had consented, why would I have pushed him away ask him to go away... If I consented wouldn’t we have had a good time rather than him ejaculating on my face when I was asleep?”

She added that she had not taken Lee’s advances seriously and saw him as merely trying his luck.

Thong then said, “At the material time you felt you did not object to him trying his luck unless he went too far, would you agree with me?”

The woman answered, “I objected to him trying his luck by pushing him away and everything that I stated before.”

The defence counsel also asked why the woman had not left when she felt uncomfortable. “Why did you need to wait for public transport when you took a Grab to SMU?” He asked.

“Being a student I want to save money as I (took a Grab ride) there and I didn’t want to (do so) again. I spent $11-$12,” the woman answered.

“But according to you, you were uncomfortable with him he made physical contact with you, yet you wanted to wait for public transport instead of taking Grab,” Thong responded.

“It is my evidence that I had a plan and I stuck to it,” said the woman.

The trial continues on Wednesday afternoon.

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