A man accused of sexually assaulting a woman onboard a Singapore Airlines flight from Tokyo to Singapore in June 2019 has been acquitted of the charge, in part, because the judge said the victim didn’t make any attempt to alert flight attendants to what had allegedly happened. The man, whose account was found to be truthful by the court, was accused of touching the victim’s left thigh and groin and in turn outraging her modesty.
“She was on a Singapore Airlines flight with a predominantly Singaporean crew. She alleged that despite her efforts at dissuading the accused from touching her, he continued to persist and she did nothing to call for assistance from the crew or anyone around her,” District Judge Bala Reddy said in comments reported by CNA News.
The woman, Judge Reddy continued “could offer no credible answer to why she had not alerted a crew member, or simply got out of her seat and freed herself of the torment.”
A recently published report by the U.S. Department of Transport, however, noted that there are many reasons why a sexual assault victim may not immediately report what has happened onboard a busy flight.
The National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force explained: “… people may react to traumatizing events in different ways (fight-flight-freeze response) and some may need time to process the situation,” the report explained.
In a separate report, the FBI said perpetrators can take advantage of the fact that some victims might not report an incident because they are too embarrassed. Others are afraid of “causing a scene” and some victims try to convince themselves the assault was accidental.
In this case, however, the court also found the sole evidence of the victim’s account against the accused simply wasn’t compelling enough and in some parts was “highly unsatisfactory”.
The woman, who can’t be named for legal reasons, claimed the man inappropriately touched her on two separate occasions after the lights in the cabin had been dimmed. On the first occasion, the woman told the court she thought he had touched her accidentally and moved his hand away.
A short time later, she claims his hand slowly crawled upwards from just above her knee, up to her inner thigh and then her groin. At the time, she didn’t know what else to do so crossed her legs and leaned away from the accused.
The man denied the assault and said he and the woman had struck up a conversation on boarding the aircraft. As the conversation continued he moved closer to the woman, swapping from his assigned aisle seat into the middle seat next to her.
She didn’t object and allowed the man to enter recommendations for a future trip to Bangkok on her mobile phone. He also included his name and phone number. When the conversation ended, he closed his eyes and woke up about an hour before landing.
Finding that the man’s account was truthful and consistent, the judge concluded that the man wouldn’t have entered his contact details into her phone if he was about to assault her. He said his decision to ask if she wanted help getting her hand luggage down from the overhead bins after landing wasn’t and the fact that she replied “no, thank you” were consistent with his denial of the accusation.
In contrast, the court said there were “serious doubts” in the testimony of the woman and found her evidence unreliable. The judge said the method of assault described by the woman was “implausible” and he wasn’t convinced by the fact that the woman gave a more detailed account in court than in her original testimony to investigators.
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