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Woman in S’pore explains why Monica Baey case shows internet a ‘scary place’

Tearing other people down will not help us, she said.

Tanya Ong | April 23, 05:17 pm

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The voyeurism incident involving a male National University of Singapore student filming a female student in the shower has yielded a range of responses.

Some have pointed out the severity of the situation, while others have called for a review of penalties.

Other have also questioned the fruitfulness of having a mob mentality.

Adding on to this discussion is one Kethlyn Gayatiri Koh, who wrote a Facebook post on how the Monica Baey case has taught her that “the internet is a scary place to be in”.

The need to verify facts

In Koh’s post, she emphasised the importance of fact-checking before “going on a social media rampage”.

She clarified that she was not insinuating that Baey’s story was false, but cautioned others against the danger of a “wildfire” that could potentially get out of hand:

“But what if it really was? Would anyone have been able to tame the wildfire? Before NUS could have responded, internet vigilantes had already began digging out information about Nicholas and his loved ones, and blasting them all over the internet. How much damage would that have caused them?”

How much punishment is enough?

Koh applauded Baey for her bravery in speaking out.

However, she also expressed disappointment in the way that people have responded by shaming the perpetrator, saying that this behaviour only makes it worse for the person and the people around him.

“We are basically aunties on the “orh hor” bandwagon who name and shame.”

And regarding the view that there should be harsher punishments for sexual offences, Koh asked: “How much is enough?”

“We smack him on the knuckles with a feather duster, then we put his name all over the internet, then we make him lose his job. When is it enough? Do we stop when he commits suicide?”

She also questioned how we are supposed to quantify sexual offences and decide what is an appropriate punishment for it.

Now what? Where do we go from here?

More importantly, Koh highlighted that this is not the first case of sexual offences in NUS — a phenomenon that reveals a wider issue: Why is this still happening? And how do we proceed from here?

She wrote:

“Ask yourself why did Nicholas commit such an act? Ask yourself what have we been doing in schools, at home, and in our community, that have encouraged such behaviour/ could stop such behaviour from manifesting?…

Is it fair for them to also have their faces and information planted all over the internet? How will they ever move on from this? Shouldn’t we as a community help them through? What about the other offenders? Have we scared them off? What about those who actually need help? Will they be too scared to come forward?”

Hence, Koh explained that there is a need to take a step back and look beyond “(tearing) each other down”.

And from there, this is how we can help each other become better people and progress as a community, she said.

Full text of her Facebook post:

The recent saga of Monica Baey has taught me one thing: That the internet is a scary place to be in.Within hours of Monica posting her instastory, my Facebook feed erupted with people reposting her story, adding comments about justice not being served/ condemning NUS for sweeping the matter aside and merely asking Nicholas to write an apology letter to Monica/ raging that NUS, Singapore and the world are unsafe places for girls and women because perpetrators like Nicholas get to escape with only a slap on his wrist. Petitions were quickly passed around to give Monica a voice, and to call for stiffer punishments for Nicholas (such as expulsion) and those who commit sexual offences on campus. Many internet vigilantes began digging up similar incidents that occurred in NUS, and many also began naming and shaming Nicholas, his girlfriend and their family.

This is why I think the internet is scary.

1. No one bothered to check the facts of the case. People were satisfied with the information that they received off of Monica’s instastory, and began going on a social media rampage. What if her story was fake? How different are you from the aunties who forward whatsapp messages in the groupchats?

2. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that her story is fake, but what if it really was? Would anyone have been able to tame the wildfire? Before NUS could have responded, internet vigilantes had already began digging out information about Nicholas and his loved ones, and blasting them all over the internet. How much damage would that have caused them?

3. Now that NUS has addressed the issue, many people still thought that the decision was unfair. The internet went crazy, enough to get NUS to set up a committee.
a. However, many failed to understand that the 12 months conditional warning was issued by the police and the AGC, and not NUS. It was also not issued by the judiciary.
i. Instead of banging the bottoms of your pans, has anyone asked why was there only the 12 months conditional letter given? Why was there a petition for the school to do something about this issue, but no petition for the police or AGC to address it?

b. NUS suspended Nicholas for one semester. He was also banned from entering Eusoff Hall, and he had to undergo mandatory counselling. A lot of people thought that this was not enough. The question then is, how much is enough? Do we use the Penal Code as an anchor and gauge from there? How do we quantify sexual offences in order for punishments to be enough? Why do people enjoy playing God, in deciding what is enough?

c. The number of cases that the internet vigilantes dug up show that this is not the first time that such an offence took place in NUS. Why has there been a repeat of such offences time and again? What exactly is NUS doing to ensure that such incidents stop once and for all?

I applaud Monica for raising these issues so that people become more aware of the situation. I applaud the people who stood alongside her and gave Monica the voice she needed. I am glad that mental health and the need to cope are acknowledged. However, I am also disappointed in my community in the way in which we have responded to this unfortunate incident. We are basically aunties on the “orh hor” bandwagon who name and shame.

Think for a minute of the other victims who thought that this saga and the events that followed, would give them a voice. Will they truly get a voice? No. Instead, the perpetrator’s name, details, and pictures will be plastered all over the internet. They would have to confront the perpetrator and the incident all over again. Most importantly, their privacy would be taken away from them as well. Are we actually giving them a voice, or scaring them into keeping silent?

I encourage you to also think about the person who committed the sexual offence. Is deterrence enough? We smack him on the knuckles with a feather duster, then we put his name all over the internet, then we make him lose his job. When is it enough? Do we stop when he commits suicide?

Ask yourself why did Nicholas commit such an act? Ask yourself what have we been doing in schools, at home, and in our community, that have encouraged such behaviour/ could stop such behaviour from manifesting? Ask yourself, how is Nicholas coping? How do we help him to move on from this? As a community, we stand in solidarity with the victim of such offences, but we need to know that destroying the lives of an offender does not make the situation any better. It makes it worst for the person, his family and loved ones. Is it fair for them to also have their faces and information planted all over the internet? How will they ever move on from this? Shouldn’t we as a community help them through?

What about the other offenders? Have we scared them off? What about those who actually need help? Will they be too scared to come forward?

This is why I think that the internet is scary. We choose the people that we want to fight for. Where were your voices and petitions when other people were victims? We name, shame, and destroy. In a country where its people are the only resource, it is disheartening to see us so quick to tear each other down. How will we ever progress as a community if we can’t help each other to be better people?

Top photo via Monica Baey’s Twitter

 

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