Did you know that in Malaysia stalking isn’t a crime? There are some existing laws related to stalking – however, these laws do not adequately address stalking and provide no legal provision for stalking survivors to get restraining orders.
More than a third of Malaysians (39% of women and 32% of men) have experienced an act associated with stalking, which caused them to be fearful. These statistics come from a new survey conducted by research company, Vase.ai, and the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).
The survey results support calls to make stalking a crime, and afford protection to survivors. Respondents shared that they’ve experienced stalking more than once, or continuously, by the same person – one in eight respondents (8% of women and 16% of men) experienced stalking involving threats of harm, and one in six respondents (12% of women and 21% of men) experienced stalking which led to actual harm.
Prevalence of stalking
The results of the survey “Understanding Malaysians’ Experiences of Stalking,” revealed that 88% of Malaysians have experienced an act associated with stalking – 60% of Malaysians have experienced these acts on more than one occasion or continuously.
These acts include:
- Receiving unwanted phone calls or messages.
- Receiving unwanted emails, chats or messages via platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
- Being spied on via a listening device, camera or GPS.
- Being watched or followed from a distance.
- Individuals who they did not want, showing up at their homes, workplace, or school.
Impact of stalking
Stalking doesn’t only cause fear and physical harm, it also negatively affects economic, social, educational, and household activities. Almost half of Malaysians who experienced acts associated with stalking suffered a negative impact on their daily lives – they were unable to focus in their employment place, could not feel safe being alone in public, and did not feel safe to attend university or a skills training course.
Reporting of stalking
More than half of the respondents, who experienced an act of stalking, did not report it to the police – nearly half of them did not do so because they didn’t believe the police could or would help. Almost half of those who did make a police report were not satisfied with the action taken by the police. Making stalking a crime would enable the authorities to respond to reports better, and ensure those being stalked are protected.
Need for anti-stalking law
In addition to an anti-stalking law defining and criminalising acts of stalking, and affording protections to survivors, such a law would also help society understand stalking better and spread awareness – both on the part of survivors of stalking, as well as on the part of perpetrators who are engaging in acts of stalking.
Although the survey results found that 69% of Malaysians believe that stalking is wrong, the high prevalence and low reporting rates of stalking suggest that there may be a gap in the law. Although stalking is a fairly common occurrence, it has been going unreported and unpunished. WAO urges the Minister of Law, Dato’ Takiyuddin Hassan, to lead the government in making stalking a crime without delay. You can sign WAO’s petition to #MakeStalkingACrime.
Although injustice and oppression have always existed, these events from the past week highlight how deeply rooted they are in our culture:
- A Nigerian being denied a job in Malaysia.
- Syed Saddiq getting backlash for posting this TikTok.
- Racist complaints made against those celebrating Diwali.
- Police brutality against 29 unlawfully detained Indian men.
Discrimination is known as individual acts of prejudice (actions, words, thoughts), but it also involves the unseen social structures that prioritise your group (race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical/mental ability).
However, simply recognising that others are disadvantaged is not enough – one must acknolwedge their own privilege, but many are unable to do so because of unconscious oppressiveness. These feelings of distress and anger are a defensive reaction to unearned rewards and given dominance. But being privileged does not necessarily mean that you have it easy – it means that your life has not been hard because of the community you’re apart of.
This is why we need to step up as allies – an ally is someone who is willing to use their position to help others. It requires constant awareness and mindful actions, which amplifies those you’re trying to support rather than speaking on behalf of them. Here’s how you can become an effective ally:
- Recognise your privilege
Consider the different types of privilege that have brought you benefits – what opportunities have you received that others have been deprived of? For example, being able to rent a room because of your race or not having to worry about getting sexually harassed when going for a run. It’s not going to be easy – you may feel embarrassed, guilty and frustrated, but this honesty is also needed for us to grow as individuals.
- Educate yourself
Talk to your friends and family, read articles and books, watch documentaries and movies – try get a better understanding of what others are going through. You’ll make mistakes (at the end of the day, you’re only human), but the most important thing is to take accountability. You have the responsibility to do better and be better.
- Show your support
Stop supporting organisations that spread hate or refuse to speak up on issues that affect the communities they profit off. Instead, donate to funds, endorse platforms and initiatives, sign petitions – and continue to after the media attention has died down.
It might seem easier turn a blind eye, but unacknowledged privilege is not only arrogant – it can be destructive too. Disapproving isn’t enough either, we need to actively speak up and acknowledge inequality because by staying silent – we are protecting the unfair system and those involved.
Remember when fighting for change was an activist’s job? As humans, caring about social issues is only the right thing to do, but if you find yourself constantly refreshing social media and checking the news for emerging threats worldwide – you might be addicted to bad news, and like all addictions, it can be harmful.
No, we’re not saying ignorance is bliss. When tragedies keep us glued to our screens, it can cause compassion fatigue – a form of burnout that’s commonly found among caretakers and healthcare professionals. But the rise of social media activism has manifested an unfair expectation for everyone to stay on top of every single issue, leaving us feeling either guilty or exhausted.
So is compassion fatigue caring ‘too much’? According to GoodTherapy, the concept also known as second-hand shock or secondary stress reaction is “a type of stress that results from helping or wanting to help those who are traumatised or under significant emotional duress”. Below are a few symptoms of compassion fatigue:
- Feeling overwhelmed or hopeless when hearing how others are suffering.
- Feeling detached from yourself or your surroundings.
- Having less empathy.
- Reacting sensitively or insensitively to tragedy.
- Constantly thinking about the suffering of others.
- Constantly blaming yourself or wondering how you could have done more.
- Downplaying your own accomplishments or success.
- Having unhealthy or destructive coping mechanisms.
- Not finding pleasure in activities you used to enjoy.
If you experience any of these signs, it’s time to take a break – your mind needs to rest, just like your body does. Here’s how you can cope with compassion fatigue and prevent burning out:
- Has Social Media Gotten Too Overwhelming?
- Have You Been Feeling Burned Out?
- Dealing With Stress During A Pandemic
- Digital Wellness: Developing A Healthier Relationship With Social Media
As the activist and writer, Audre Lorde, once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare”. Don’t feel bad about taking a step back because there’s an increasing number of people ready to carry on where you left off. You can’t stand up for social justice when you’re barely hanging on, so do what you need to do to stay positive, strong and healthy.
If you still feel overwhelmed, please seek help from a mental health professional.
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Happy Malaysia Day 🇲🇾 We sat down with a few East Malaysians (@elenalaurel, @_llyshae, @aniqdurar & @sam.tzes) to understand them better and how we can create a more inclusive environment for our fellow Malaysians. Don’t miss the good food recommendations at the end! #BreakingByWildGingerMY
For the first episode of Breaking! – a series that aims to break stigmas, stereotypes, boundaries and barriers through simple conversations, we invited four East Malaysians to share the disconnect they’ve been facing in West Malaysia.
Although Sarawak and Sabah are the biggest states in Malaysia, their physical separation from the peninsular has them often overlooked and othered by their own country.
“There’s definitely a disparity to me,” says Ellysha, a student from Sarawak, “especially with the culture”. She noticed that people are more segregated in West Malaysia compared to the multicultural and multi-religious Borneo. “I got really shocked when people were really interested in my religion or race.”
Samuel, a fresh graduate from Sabah, was also startled by the ignorance that still exists. He shares that “do you live in trees?” continues to be a common stereotype. “Yeah, we even have WiFi on the tree”, is his comeback to the off-colour joke.
Stereotypes are used to oppress minorities. Elena, a freelancer from Sabah, asks West Malaysians to recognise their privilege and use it to help East Malaysians. She worries that because of their lack of access to good education and reliable information, ” When some Sabahans don’t know better – I really hope West Malaysians won’t take advantage of that”.
How can we improve this cultural incompetence? Aniq, an actor from Sarawak, simplifies the solution to “stop talking and listen to us”. He sees media as a powerful tool and calls for more representation both in front of and behind the camera to help amplify their voices. “Redefine what Malaysia looks like to you … There’s more than just this one narrative – it’s diverse.”