Our five guests react to InstaSex, an investigative story by The Straits Times that examines the challenges and sexual threats faced by young girls online.
We hear from Vanessa Ng, who runs the account @upand.out on Instagram, which offers sex-education for the masses; Hope Tay, one-half of the self-help podcast @Mentaldumbbells that chronicles issues facing growing adults; Haikel Fahim, founder and host of The Ironing Board Podcast, where he opens discussion around various social issues; entrepreneur Annie Chan; and Dr Simon Neo, a psychotherapist.
Here are some of the key points brought up in this episode:
People’s choice to post what they want
Even if individuals wanted to show more skin online, “there is nothing that these girls did, or do, to warrant this kind of abuse,” Vanessa Ng says solemnly.
Annie Chan echoes the same sentiment: “Whether I post a sexy photograph of myself, it is my prerogative.”
Nevertheless, this simple truth does not deter some men from sexually harassing girls and women they come across online, often with long-lasting mental and emotional repercussions.
Enduring consequences of social media sexual abuse
Mental health issues following sexual assault has long-term consequences for both victims and their family.
Dr Simon Neo highlights that the scars linger often not only for the individuals but for the whole family. Often these cases are so serious that professional intervention and therapy is needed.
Haikel Fahim similarly shares his concern that victims would often take years to fully overcome the assault: “Perhaps it will stay with these people for the entirety of their life.”
Protecting the young from abusive behaviour
For Ms Chan who is concerned that her teen nieces and nephews would also experience the same harm online, she advises them to “be more mindful” and “do what is needful” to protect themselves, such as not sharing suggestive photographs to reduce the chances of pictures being sexually misappropriated.
For individuals who have been sexually violated, she suggests raising the matter to their family or school, so that perpetrators do not get away with their actions.
Ms Ng thinks that educating girls and boys “repeatedly from young” on the appropriate boundaries of online behaviour is essential. For instance, it is wrong to zoom in on one part of the body, and no one should recirculate nudes sent in trust.
Falsely holding girls accountable for others’ actions also teaches the wrong lesson that the victims, instead of perpetrators, are at fault, when they have been sexually abused on- or offline.