Sex abuse survivors no longer silent
Victims continue to face uphill battle to seek justice as stigma persists in society
Recent claims of sexual misconduct made against high-profile politician Prinn Panitchpakdi have motivated some who have been subjected to similar acts to speak out about their traumatic experiences.
One 28-year-old woman said she was sexually harassed by her dancing partner from a social dance club during an upcountry trip. She said the offender asked her out several times before but she did accept his advances. It got to the point that his behaviour was so much that she quit the club.
But on one occasion she decided to join a trip organised by the club in which the man also participated. At night after she returned to her room, she heard a knocking sound on the door but was too scared to open the door.
"I heard someone entering the room next to mine then I heard a crackling sound outside my corridor. He broke into my room. I was in a T-shirt and lingerie. I was terrified and scared. I wanted to shout for help but I was frozen because of fear of being hurt by him," she said.
The man was drunk, she said. He sat on her bed while she tried to persuade him to sit on a sofa. She cried while trying to hold a conversation with him just to avoid angering him.
"He cut the conversation and hugged me. I was shaking a lot," she said.
When she told a friend about the incident the next day, she was blamed for being overly friendly with the man and for the way she dressed which may have aroused him. The comments made her feel bad about herself, leading to further psychological trauma and self-hatred. She said she even questioned her self-worth.
She decided not to tell the story to anyone else, nor did she file a police report. She quit dancing, which was the thing she loved the most. Fortunately, she later met some friends who helped shape her perception that she was not to blame, but was a survivor.
"As a survivor, I am not wrong. It is not my fault to be what I am, being friendly and a woman," she added.
Abuses can occur against gay people as well.
One salesman, now 30, said he was sexually harassed when he turned 20. He said that the offender was a friend of a friend who asked him and his friend to dinner to celebrate his birthday. After dinner, the man took him and his friend to a club in the Chatuchak area.
The man offered him a ride home but later told him that he was too drunk to drive and wanted to rest at his condo first.
"I asked him to call security to call a taxi for me as I was drunk. Still, he asked me to go to his room and help him to get some stuff. I did so," the salesman said.
In the man's room, he was told to inhale a "popper" -- a chemical psychoactive drug used at sex parties -- however, he refused and fought back. The bottle was broken and the smell made him dizzy. He said the man tried to undress him and record the attack with a computer.
"He couldn't take off my pants because I was struggling at that time," he said.
As the salesman was about to pass out the offender then did an act on him which is too graphic to describe. The offender also video recorded the act through his computer.
The next morning, the offender denied what he did and said they were both drunk. Several days later, the video clip of the act was posted on a web board. The salesman was blamed by netizens for what happened because he got so drunk. Some of them even shamed him. He said that he did not report it to the police as he was too ashamed and afraid of being blamed again.
"It was better for me to stay quiet because the more I became vocal about this, the more I got blamed. I feel like victim-blaming had stolen my opportunity to get justice. Many people also accused me of seeking attention through being a victim," he added.
Wuttichai Phumsanguan, a provincial chief public prosecutor attached to the Attorney General's Office, said victims of sex abuse should not be shamed.
"Sex crime offenders, they are the ones who instead must be shamed and punished," Mr Wuttichai said.
"Those who are affected by sex crimes, they should also not be blamed but seen as survivors as they are surviving both physical and psychological trauma. It is the way to empower and honour them for their strength to stand up again," he said.
Sex crimes, domestic violence and child-related crimes are very sensitive, Mr Wuttichai said, adding these cases need to be handled with care as some questions may be too harsh and hurt their feeling or bring shame on them.
The questioning process by the police should be attended by an expert who will help screen questions or provide a comfortable atmosphere for those who had been abused.
Mr Wuttichai advised survivors to file a complaint with police so allegations enter the legal process. If offenders post sexual misconduct videos online, they can be charged under the Computer Crime Act Section 14 for uploading profane content. He also warned trolls blaming victims that they may violate the law.
"No matter how drunk or intoxicated a person gets, no one has the right to attack anyone. We have to respect issues of consent and the rights of an individual over their body. The law protects everyone regardless of their gender identity," he added.