SINGAPORE: A 35-year-old former teacher from international school UWCSEA is on trial for molesting his colleague’s wife after a social event held by the school.
Benjamin James Henry, a British national, is accused of running his hand down the 53-year-old woman’s back, to her waist and her buttock on Jun 17, 2017 at the Singapore Cricket Club where the event was held.
On the opening day of the trial on Thursday (May 2), the victim, who cannot be named due to a court order, took the stand and described in detail her version of what happened that night.
She attended the event with her husband who at the time was a teacher at UWC, the court heard.
There was a live band, dancing and drinks at the event, and she had spritzers and danced with her husband in the “salsa style”, she said. They stayed till the band packed up, which she assumed was after midnight.
As they were walking out together, her husband was saying goodbye to people who were passing by when she felt a hand on her back. At that point and after, as the hand travelled down her back to her waist, she said she assumed it was a friend waiting to say bye.
Still, she was shocked, she said.
“I was thinking ‘who is this person who is feeling so comfortable and tactile with me?’” she said.
It was only when the hand reached her buttock and stayed there for one to two seconds, that she grabbed the wrist of the person who had touched her and turned to face him, she said. She added that the entire incident lasted about six seconds.
She had never seen the person whose wrist she had grabbed, so she asked him a series of questions to ascertain if he was a teacher or a guest, she said.
He did not respond immediately, but suddenly, he said: “Get real, I’m gay." He then removed his hand from her grasp “aggressively” and stormed off, she said.
Breaking down on the stand, she said: “At that point, I couldn’t understand why he did that and I couldn’t understand his response. It didn’t make sense to me.”
Her husband, who had stopped walking when she stopped, saw her grab Henry’s wrist, she said.
She did not see where Henry headed, but was soon approached by someone who the victim and her husband found out was Henry’s friend. They confirmed through him that Henry is gay.
What followed was about an hour of being doubted by others who had stopped to find out what happened, the victim said. Among those who did not believe her were close friends, she added. People also asked her if she had gotten the wrong person.
One woman said of Henry: “I know who he is. He’s a really lovely lad. It couldn’t have happened.”
She asked the victim if she would accept an apology, and she said yes. The friend then approached Henry. However, he said he did not do it, and that he was not going to apologise.
SHE FELT VIOLATED, STRIPPED OF HER DIGNITY
The victim said that all she wanted was an apology and Henry’s acknowledgement that he molested her, which she did not get. She and her husband eventually left the club.
When Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lai asked her how she felt after the incident, she said: “I felt violated. I was stripped of my dignity."
She also said that she felt physically, emotionally and mentally abused by Henry’s touch, response and aggression.
At some point after the incident, her husband received an email from Henry saying that if the incident happened, it was accidental. He also said that they could meet to talk.
They set up a meeting with a UWC counsellor, but nothing was resolved. About six months after the incident, the victim reported it to the police. She also said that UWC did not record the incident formally.
When asked why she took so long to report it, she said she did not want to put Henry in the hands of the law and potentially ruin his life and career as a teacher.
In cross-examining her, however, Henry’s lawyer Raji Ramason put it to her that she did not go to the police earlier because she was not certain that the incident happened intentionally or knowingly.
He also put to her that she had been drinking and was unsteady, and that her judgment was impaired.
The victim disagreed to these.
“I wanted to give him a chance to apologise so the matter doesn’t blow up,” she said.
The victim said she was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and is unable to sleep. She is currently on anxiety medication and takes sleeping pills, she said. When she does sleep, she has nightmares of her friends dying, she added.