By now you would have read the news about a 31-year-old Chinese national who allegedly raped and sexually assaulted at least five teenage girls. Many of these assaults took place at an industrial building, which is 1008 Toa Payoh North — and that’s our building! That’s where the NYLON office is. The crime took place in the male toilet on the seventh floor; we’re on the fourth floor. When I read the news about this, I was freaked out; because there are days in office where some of the NYLON staff (females) stay alone working in office till late at night, and leave alone too. The building really is quite deserted and quiet at night, and it’s really quite dark as well.
above: level 1 at night, 1008 toa payoh north, where the nylon office is.
Now what is really bothering me after reading this news is that our building management — Mapletree, sent out a circular to all the tenants in June last year, informing us about faulty locks and reminding us to keep the toilet doors closed and locked at all times for security reasons. Here’s the email from them:
And this got me thinking… are tenants BREAKING locks for their convenience but at the risk of the safety of others?
Then on 10 December last year, we got this email:
So amidst all these reminders to lock the toilet doors, there were rumours floating around that there were incidences of Peeping Toms. I had NYLON’s Office Manager ask Mapletree if something happened hence the sudden requirement to lock toilet doors (this was never a need in the past seven years that we’ve been in this building) — but they didn’t provide us with any further information other than “security reasons”.
Now after reading about these alleged rapes, I feel that Mapletree should have given the tenants some kind of heads up that there’s a potential intruder on the premise, so we could take better precaution — such as leaving office in pairs, rather than staying late alone. And everyone would take the locking of toilet doors seriously. Without knowing there was actual danger, I don’t think anyone bothered to lock the toilet doors at all. But of course Mapletree could have been instructed by the police to withhold all information because an investigation was ongoing. Having said that, the crime took place over 10 months — and that’s a rather long time to know something important, and keep everyone in the dark about it.
From the Straits Times report, we have so many legitimate questions left unanswered:
— Did this guy work in our building?
— Did he know the victims or were they strangers he abducted?!
— How was he finally caught?
Now that we know Singapore — and our office building — isn’t as safe as we think it to be, we shouldn’t take our safety for granted, and instead arm ourselves with the knowledge of what we can legally do to protect ourselves in dangerous situations.
SHORT TERM ACTION: PERSONAL ALARM
The Singapore Police Force has an extensive list of “permissible, controlled and prohibited” items. Pepper spray and stun guns are classified as “controlled” items in Singapore, which means you need a permit to own one. And even for “premissible” items like kitchen and pocket knives, it may be an offence to carry these items in a public place.
Since you can’t carry any truly effective weapons around, get a personal safety alarm. Search “personal safety alarm” on Lazada or Amazon; there are tons of affordable options like these:
There’s even a My Melody version that’s pretty cute:
Amazon has “grenade-style” alarms where you pull a tab to make an ear-piercing sound for up to 20 minutes.
SHORT TERM ACTION: BLINDING FLASH LIGHT
Get a portable flash light that has high lumens; flashing it in your perpetrator’s eyes can cause momentary blindness, and that may be all the advantage you need to get away. I suggest checking out Nitecore, which has an extensive range of good quality personal defense lights. These are designed with a tail cap switch that allows you to mash the switch and have the light come on at full intensity.
LONG TERM ACTION: LEARN SELF DEFENSE
Self defense classes have been gaining in popularity in recent years, not just for learning how to protect yourself, but as an interesting way to exercise. Here are some recommendations to check out:
This Mixed Martial Arts gym has instructors who are World Champions. There are classes for Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, Wrestling, Kickboxing, and even one for children (I just signed up my eight-year-old for a trial class!). There are four branches and you can take a free trial class by registering on their website.
Above: the Evolve mma studio / photo courtesy evolve mma
Pricing starts from $249 a month. You can arrange a 30-minute 1:1 trial session by calling 65364525. Different martial arts classes for different levels are available on a daily basis and students can just walk in and join the classes without needing to make any prior bookings. There are also women-only classes available weekly.
KRAV MAGA GLOBAL:
These are specific classes on “releases from grabs”, “fighting skills” and “weapon defense”. There’s only one outlet and it’s located at Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre, so if you live in the East, this is a good option for you. There are also kids classes and a free trial class you can sign up for by emailing: email@example.com. We called to ask for pricing and it’s $270 per month for working adults, and $180 per month for students. There are classes every day and it’s unlimited, meaning you can attend up to 60 classes in a month (which is the number of classes they hold per month)!
- Don’t walk alone in the dark. If your office building is dark, quiet and secluded like ours, ask a colleague to wait for you and leave together in pairs. That includes if you’re the last person to lock up the office — get someone to wait with you.
- Don’t plug in both sides of your earphones when you’re walking alone, and don’t blast your music. Be able to hear your surroundings.
- If you’re truly alone, call someone and talk to them until you get to safety, letting them know your whereabouts, so they can hear if something happens and call the police for you.
- Avoid stilettos and wear more practical shoes or boots that you can walk quickly and even run in.
- Hold a hard object in your hand, like a hard cover book or umbrella to use as a weapon if you need to.
- If someone grabs you and tells you not to scream, scream anyway because you’re going to get hurt regardless.
- If you carry a backpack, carry it only on one shoulder so it’s easy to let it go and run if someone grabs it.
- If you have long hair, let it down instead of tying it in a ponytail, which is easy to grab.
- Knuckledusters may be illegal, but holding keys between your fingers sure isn’t.