BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Family and friends should believe and support victims of sexual offences rather than blame the victim, a senior police official said at a forum to mark International Women’s Day.

Strong family support is important to avoid victim-blaming while addressing sexual harassment cases, said DSP Norkhatijah Hj Zainal, acting head of Royal Brunei Police Force’s (RBPF) Women and Children Abuse Investigation Unit.

Victim-blaming is the attitude which suggests that the victim rather than the perpetrator bears responsibility for the crime.

It occurs when it is assumed that an individual did something to provoke the offence by actions, words, or dress.

Sexual harassment can come in different forms – physical, verbal, signals, visual or psychological.

To assist in the investigation, DSP Norkhatijah said victims need to be as specific as possible such as taking note of the time, location of the incident and whether there were witnesses.

“Sexual harassment victims must gather evidence and document the harassment such as taking notes of what happened and keeping records of any communication such as text messages containing sexually explicit jokes or statements,” she added.

DSP Norkhatijah was one of the panellists at the PREPanita Forum, which took place at the Health Promotion Centre on Monday.

Sexual harassment perpetrators can be convicted under Chapter 22 of the Laws of Brunei Penal Code; Section 197 of the Syariah Penal Code Order, 2013; and Regulation 29 of the General Orders 1961.

Visitors at the Women Hub Exhibition held to mark International Women’s Day at the Health Promotion Centre. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

‘Seek help from health professionals’

Another panellist said everyone has the right to access healthcare, including teenage mothers.

“A system is in place to help you, we would like to emphasise that we are there to support you and make sure [the well-being of the baby is taken care].

“I understand that because of what happened, families may not be able to accept but that doesn’t mean all is lost,” said Nur Amalina Nadzila Ibrahim, a medical welfare officer at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha Hospital’s Medical Services Department.

Government data from 2004 to 2013 reported a total of 3,405 teen pregnancies.

A number of abandoned newborn babies have been reported the last few years.

On January 28, a female infant was found floating along the Kianggeh river which prompted an investigation by the RBPF Women and Children Abuse Investigation Unit.

Nur Amalina also urged those in need of help for mental illnesses to contact Talian Harapan 145 for assistance.

The mental health helpline “Talian Harapan 145” was launched in February 2019 to provide crisis support.