SMU molest trial: Undergrad kept making unwanted advances on woman

Wan Ting Koh
·Reporter
·6-min read
(Yahoo News Singapore file photo)
(Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — A Singapore Management University (SMU) student accused of rubbing his genitals on a woman who was sleeping on campus had kept making unwanted advances on his alleged victim, even groping her breasts hours before committing the offences he is facing in court.

In response to Lee Yan Ru’s advances, the 22-year-old woman would often brush them off, maintaining that she did not want to make him feel bad as they both had mutual friends.

Lee, 24, is claiming trial to one charge of molesting the woman on 8 January last year by rubbing his bare genitals on her chest while she lay on the floor of a study room in SMU’s School of Economics and Social Sciences. The alleged act took place at around 6.30am, supposedly after the woman had fallen asleep on the floor.

The alleged victim, a student at a private university, took the stand on Monday (7 September) to detail how Lee had made unwanted physical contact with her leading up to the incident. She cannot be named due to a court-imposed gag order.

According to the woman, Lee first approached her in December 2018 – around two weeks before the incident – after she had posted a photo of herself wearing sunglasses on Instagram. Lee had offered to buy her the sunglasses then.

“I told him no cause I have a boyfriend,” recalled the woman.

Asked by Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Andre Chong about her response, the woman replied, “Cause usually when a girl tells a guy I have a boyfriend, usually the guy would take a hint and back off and not make any advancements (sic).” Lee then asked to bring her out for a meal, but the woman rejected him.

The two kept up a casual chat about school work and some 20 mutual friends that they shared on Instagram.

While the woman did not express interest in Lee, she recalled that Lee called her “pretty”.

The two met for the first time at a cafe near SMU at Lee’s invitation to do school work on 7 January 2019. The woman said she agreed to it as she had a lot of assignments to complete and the arrangement did not clash with her plans to do school work.

At the cafe, Lee allegedly chose to sit beside the woman and poked her in her ribs some 40 minutes into the meeting, the woman testified.

“I moved his hand away…I felt awkward, I didn’t really know how to act because usually if it’s someone I didn’t know I would have moved away or left the place. But considering the nature of our acquaintance and how we had mutual friends I didn’t know how to respond,” she said. She tried to brush the matter off, as she did not want to appear rude or make him look bad.

Later that day, Lee asked her to do work with him and she agreed as she had work to complete by the morning of 8 January. She did not tell her boyfriend about the incident as he had gone to bed early.

“I thought that by meeting someone it would prevent me from falling asleep at at home...sort of a way to force myself to complete assignment,” she said.

She took a Grab vehicle to meet the man at SMU at about 1am on 8 January. The two then headed up to a study room and sat opposite each other. During the session, Lee kept putting his foot on the woman’s thigh, the woman recalled.

“It was weird and awkward and it was quite unhygienic so I pushed his foot off. I grabbed his foot and moved it away so that it fell on the floor,” she said. Although Lee repeated the act some four more times, the woman did not verbalise her objection.

“I’m not really verbal when I feel awkward I also just thought that by me pushing his feet off he would understand that I do not want his foot on my thigh. I’m more expressive with bodily language than verbally. So I try to get my points across by actions,” she said.

Later, the two watched Netflix on the floor and Lee suggested that they shift to under the table to avoid the glare of the lights. The woman agreed.

Accused tickled me and groped my breasts: Woman

After the movie ended, the man tickled the woman before groping her breasts under her top from behind her. The woman said she had to use force to prise his fingers off.

Asked how she felt at this point, the woman replied, “I don’t remember, but probably shocked - really shocked.”

The woman then tried to crawl from the table, but the man hugged her to prevent her departure, she said. After a short struggle, Lee released her and crawled out first.

When asked why she did not leave, the woman said there was no mode of transport during the wee hours.

She added, “I didn’t want to leave a bad impression and didn’t want to make him feel bad… if it’s someone I didn’t know I would have gotten up and just left but this is different as we got to know each other already, I didn’t have it in me to say something to him or just walk off.

“Considering we were alone in school... the last thing I wanted was turn him into an enemy.”

The woman then suggested that Lee show her around SMU as a way of diffusing the situation. CCTV footage played in court then captured the two taking a walk around school, with the woman aiming a playful kick at Lee at one point.

“After the incident things were really tense and I don’t like being in a tense situation so I try to make things casual at least until it was okay, I broke it by giving playful kick,” the woman said on her kick.

After a smoke break, the two returned to the study room where the man allegedly stood between the woman’s thighs as she sat on a table. He allegedly tried to kiss her several times while pushing her down onto the table. The woman resisted and felt “something warm” on her thigh, which she suspected to be his penis. He later allegedly removed his penis and agreed to the woman’s request to bring her down to smoke again.

The trial continues on Wednesday.

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