We’re investing in the hardware to deter voyeurs. Now let’s talk about the ‘heartware’.

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How do we make sure no one else experiences what NUS undergraduate Monica Baey went through?

That’s the question on everyone’s lips since last month’s shocking news about a sexual voyeurism case at the National University of Singapore (NUS). At the center of the saga is a male student who took a video of his female hallmate, Monica, when she was showering.

The latest promise from NUS: To massively beef up campus security. More security guards, CCTV cameras and better restroom locks.

These are great efforts, but hardware aside, it’s also worth upgrading our ‘heartware’ – the attitudes that make a grown man think it’s fine to film someone else naked. No CCTV camera is going to help someone have that inner breakthrough (though it does serve to deter wrongdoing).

Much talk now has rightly been on helping survivors of sexual crimes and disciplining the perpetrators. But there are also growing calls to go “upstream” – to break the culture of toxic masculinity that enables perpetrators in the first place.

And that’s something all of us can help with. For a start, try these three steps:

1. Call out crude jokes

Has a friend made a crass comment about women? There’s a thin line between admiring and objectifying someone – the latter basically means you treat someone as an object to be used, never mind that she has thoughts and feelings. Obviously, this mentality is harmful. So the next time a friend says “I’m just saying only lah, won’t really do it”, you can simply respond with: “What you’re saying is not cool.”

2. Learn to be a good first responder.

It’s hard enough for someone to share an experience of sexual violence. What makes it harder is when people respond with judgmental comments like, “What were you wearing?” or “Were you drunk?”

AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre has four important statements that they advise first responders to use:

  1. “It’s not your fault.”
  2. ” It’s your choice how you want to move forward. “
  3. ” It’s your experience, not anybody else’s “
  4. ” I’m here to support you. “

SACC has prepared phrases to practise being a good first responder. Find them on Facebook.

If someone confides a story or incident of sexual misconduct, use these phrases when you extend offer emotional and practical support. Don’t fall into judgement or victim-blaming.

SACC has prepared phrases to practise being a good first responder. Find them on Facebook.

3. Have Empathy

This may seem obvious. But a little step can go a long way in imagining yourself in someone else’s shoes. When it comes to sexual activity, consent is key. This is why learning to prevent sexual misconduct in schools actually focuses a huge part on empathy. Take a step back and treat others with respect. Remember that each one of us has our own feelings, thoughts, desires and experiences.

Ask: “Would I want something like this to happen to me?” As the popular saying goes, “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto you.”

It’s important to start normalising the conversation to foster a culture of safety and accountability. AWARE’s “Aim For Zero” campaign acts as a great starting point and rallying call to end sexual violence.