The Jakarta Post
It never occurred to 23-year-old Devina Heriyanto that she would be sexually harassed in a neighborhood near her office — an area she had long considered safe.
Devina was walking with her friends from a cafeteria on Jl. Palmerah Selatan, on the border of West Jakarta and Central Jakarta, on Saturday when an unidentified man in a motorcycle groped her breast and drove off, leaving her stunned and traumatized.
Devina, a community officer at The Jakarta Post whose daily tasks include writing, editing and managing social media, decided to tell her story to the public via social media in a rare move to break the silence on harassment in the country.
On her Twitter account, she shared her experience and described how, in the aftermath of the incident, she had difficulties working and sleeping and struggled with feelings of anger and distress.
“Remember: sexual harassment can happen anywhere, to anyone, and anytime, regardless of the victim’s clothes,” she said in her tweet, which garnered over 6,700 retweets and 3,800 likes.
The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) recorded that more than 3,500 sexual violence cases, including molestation and harassment, occurred in public last year.
But the numbers may only be the tip of the iceberg as a survey conducted by support group for victims of sexual violence Lentera Sintas Indonesia and feminist website Magdalene.co in 2016 revealed that more than 90 percent of rape cases in Indonesia went unreported.
The survey highlighted that the country’s “deafening silence” on sexual violence was partly because victims feared of being blamed.
Magdalene.co and Lentera Sintas launched the #MulaiBicara (#SpeakUp) campaign in 2016 to encourage victims to speak up. However, the campaign did not gain much traction.
Lentera Sintas founder Wulan Danoekoesoemo attributed the lack of support to a persistent mindset that pressured men, even those who may be personally against such behavior, into harassing and being aggressive toward women, or else they would be labeled “losers”.
The online campaign regained traction after Dangdut singer Via Vallen published a lewd message she received from an unnamed soccer player in July.
Via’s post, however, received mixed responses, with some netizens praising her for her bravery and others mocking her, calling her an attention seeker or drama queen.
“The public response is generally divided into two, with the more aware citizens condemning [sexual] assault but, because of the strong culture of victim-blaming in Indonesia, there are still those who find fault in the victim,” Wulan said.
Legal Aid Foundation of Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice (LBH Apik) director Veni Siregar said that such movements, including those amplified through social media, were critical in pressuring authorities to enforce the law.
Devina’s tweet was also met with mixed responses.
“That’s what happened to me too. Not only my chest but also my butt. Thank you for being brave to share, I have no courage at all,” wrote @Aurinaans.
Some speculated that Devina provoked the assault by not dressing conservatively.
“Excuse me [...] are you Muslim? If yes, then wear a hijab or fix your clothing. I guarantee it’s a clothing problem. Thanks,” wrote user @Sutarno99256947.
But Devina did not budge, saying: “I believe that this is something that needs to be told [so] that more people are aware that street harassment is still, sadly, an everyday occurrence in Indonesia.”
She filed a report with the Jakarta Police on Tuesday. (nor)