“I’m days away from graduating with a degree in communication design. I furthered my studies at The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) because I’m interested in using design to make a difference in Singapore that’s why I focused on sexual harassment for my school project.

I experienced molestation when I was in secondary school. I was on the bus and the guy seated next to me lifted my skirt. I didn’t know what to do; I just alighted and cried about it. No, I didn’t tell anyone. It was shameful and I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it.

I realised that molestation is a problem we should be discussing more openly in Singapore after talking to my friends. I was shocked to know that many of them were molested before. And I’m not just talking about my girlfriends; guys have experienced it too.

To start a conversation, I did a social experiment at a bus stop. It was a risky project, but a friend managed to get some of her more daring friends to participate. Basically, we staged a scenario where a girl is being harassed by a guy.

The focus of this experiment was the bystanders, not the victim. Why? Well, in real-life cases, victims of sexual harassment are often too shocked or traumatised to speak out, so I thought that capturing the reaction of bystanders would make for a more meaningful project.

Yes, there were many memorable reactions. I recorded everything on a GoPro that I had taped to myself. I managed to capture this family who witnessed everything but didn’t do a single thing to help; that was quite disgusting to me.

But I was also very shocked when a policeman who was out of uniform confronted the harasser. I honestly thought he was going to arrest my friend after he revealed his badge to him, but we got the situation under control, fortunately.

As part of the project, I also compiled true stories of people who experienced molestation in Singapore. They were all handwritten messages, and I turned everything into a collage. I think that’s more impactful than recreating the letters using a nice Helvetica font.  

I think art shouldn’t be nice. Even the language we use here in Singapore is very neat and proper. It’s as though local designers want to make a powerful statement but are too afraid to hurt anyone’s feelings.

That’s what I appreciate about GSA. The lecturers are very supportive of what we do, and we can get away with a lot of shit. We are allowed to explore and make mistakes, and I think it’s very important to be in such a nurturing and open-minded environment.

I am a little concerned that I’ll be restricted when I go out into the industry, but I’ll power my way through. Design can make a change if it’s impactful, and I’ll be fine as long as my work is meaningful and not just pretty look at.” – Sabrina, 23


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Arman Shah

A former travel writer with fond memories of solo adventures in Southeast Asia, Arman is now Founder of The Everyday People. He's also the co-host of Channel Empathy, a podcast about the marginalised in Singapore.