Sexual harassment and assault

Brave Vera Lui brings Hong Kong into the #MeToo campaign against sexual assault

Alice Wu applauds the Hong Kong hurdler for revealing the abuse she suffered as a child to raise awareness of a painful and taboo subject. As a society, we must encourage more to come forward

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 December, 2017, 11:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 December, 2017, 7:01pm

Equal Opportunities Commission chairperson Alfred C.M. Chan wrote a wonderful piece for the Post last week, musing aloud how long Hong Kong would remain a “silent onlooker” as the world turns on its post-Harvey-Weinstein axis. I also wondered about that.

It’s not an easy topic to talk about, in public or private. But the most difficult conversations are the ones sexual assault victims have with themselves. Wrestling with accepting what has been done and dressing wounds that cannot be seen are no small feat. Those who have been assaulted have to heal, and face the monsters who harmed them. The pain and anguish can be debilitating – the more reason for us to start talking about it.

It’s time to face “it” straight on, with courage. Whatever you call “it” – rape, sexual violence, sexual harassment, sexual intimidation, or “inappropriate sexual behaviour”, as was the case with the recently fired NBC News Today host Matt Lauer – “it” is real. It is everywhere – most definitely not a Western social construct or something that happens only in the West.

Athlete Vera Lui Lai-yiu, Hong Kong’s “queen of hurdles”, made sure Hong Kong was no longer a city of silent onlookers, and for that, I thank Lui. Thank you for your courage and your #MeToo, and thank you for giving Hong Kong a gift on your 23rd birthday.

Coming forward and joining the global #MeToo movement to reveal that she was sexually assaulted by her coach when she was only 13, Lui has made “it” a front and centre issue.

She struggled with it for a decade. But she proved that victims, too, can survive, and emerge from the devastation as a pillar of strength, helping others and becoming an agent for change for the world.

Lui is a hero. She came forward for three reasons: to increase public awareness of sexual assault against children; to encourage victims to speak up; and to let the public understand that sex is not a shameful or taboo subject.

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I am proud of Lui, who is wise as well as brave. She alerted her alma mater before she went public, giving it ample time to marshal a response. Her declaration that she is not “ashamed as a victim” is a powerful statement. “Victimhood” need not be a negative identity. She put the fault squarely on the offender, and no one else.

Since Lui made the details of her ordeal public, Hong Kong society as a whole has broken its silence. Pui Ching Middle School, where Lui went to school, gave her its full support, praised Lui for her “great courage”, and acted promptly – suspending the accused coach from contacting training students; providing counselling services to all track and field team members; and vowing to fully cooperate should Lui decide to take legal action.

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Meanwhile, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu has appealed to all victims to lodge a complaint.

The rest of us should also give our support. If you are sick and tired of reading about the sexual abuse revelations, blame the predators. There are too many Weinsteins out there.

As a hurdler, Lui has jumped over her highest hurdle yet. And I have every faith in this magnificent young woman that she will overcome whatever hurdles life will throw her way. The rest of us can be inspired by her courage.

Surveys conducted by the Equal Opportunities Commission and other non-governmental organisations have revealed that sexual harassment is a deep-rooted problem in Hong Kong. There is a lot more we can do to protect our children, women and men from sexual predators. And we have to begin with encouraging victims to speak up.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA