Corporate Communication students organise Voices with Hope campaign

With the aim to educate Malaysian females on the facts and myths of sexual violence, “Voices with Hope”, a virtual sexual violence awareness campaign was organised on 27 March 2021 via Facebook Live. It was a sustainability campaign organised by 43 final year students of Bachelor of Corporate Communication (Honours) (CC) from UTAR Faculty of Creative Industries (FCI) who are currently doing their UJMC3034 Event Planning and Management II subject. The campaign was held in collaboration with Perak Women for Women (PWW) and UTAR Student Representative Council (SRC).  

Guided by their Advisor-cum-FCI Department of Mass Communication Lecturer Cheah Shu Xu, the campaign served as a platform to raise awareness regarding the helps available for sexual violence. It featured various activities including forum session, talks, lucky draw sessions and social activists sharing session. On top of that, a virtual gallery titled “We Survived: This is Our Story” was held concurrently. The virtual gallery featured twenty confessions from actual victims of sexual violence, with the hope to increase the public’s awareness of the sexual violence issue.

The campaign was moderated by Charath Nair N. Suresh and Charlene Darveenia Lionel.

Dr David Tneh giving his welcome remark

Welcoming everyone to the campaign, FCI Dean Dr David Tneh Cheng Eng said,“ 'Voices with hope', is an event to raise awareness concerning sexual violence against women. I would like to thank the entire CC students, who were led by their Chairperson Ng Yoke Xiang, for pulling off this very unique and amazing campaign. It is also a very timely campaign knowing that in the month of March we have International Women’s Day. Pulling this campaign off during a pandemic is never easy. I would like to applaud the students for working very hard in making this campaign a successful one. Rest assured that members of the public who joined us today will have a very fun-filled day as there are several activities ongoing today. I would also like to thank the sponsors for supporting the students, as well as our colleagues for supervising them.”

Cynthia Lau congratulating the students

Head of Department of Mass Communication Cynthia Lau Pui-Shan, on the other hand, congratulated the students and said, “Sexual violence is an act that is committed against someone’s will. According to MyHEALTH, the act of sexual violence ranges from rape to attempted rape, abusive sexual contact, verbal sexual harassment and unwanted touching. In recent times, the hashtag '#MeToo' movement has ignited awareness of sexual violence against women. This includes Malaysian women and women around the world. According to news reported by The Star, as of September 2020 itself, there were countless posts on social media about sexually harassed victims recounting their experience of being violated by people whom they trust.” Meanwhile, she also thanked the sponsors and collaborator (PWW) for their support and for making the students’ campaign a reality and success.

Ng thanking everyone for the support

Ng Yoke Xiang, the Programme Head of this campaign said,” Through this event, we hope that we will be in a position to raise awareness regarding sexual violence. This campaign is also organised to encourage sexual violence victims to voice out. All the profits from this campaign will be donated to the PWW to improve the well-being of the victims and society. I would like to thank our campaign advisor for her enormous contribution to the success of this campaign and her contributions have given us much hope.”

She advised, “Remember we should be brave enough to stand up against sexual violence and break the silence of abuse. 'Lift your VOICE, Glint the HOPE'.” She also expressed her gratitude to the speakers, collaboration partners, ambassador and generous sponsors who played an important role, the members as well in making the campaign a reality and a success.

During the forum session, the moderator who is UTAR FCI Department of Mass Communication academic Dr Sharon Jacqueline Albert Wilson said, “This is indeed a very meaningful Saturday morning that we can get together and share a very meaningful topic on sexual violence, especially this month is the International Women’s month. According to the World Health Organisation, it has actually reported that one in three women has suffered physical or sexual violence. That is an alarming number. The fact that nearly everybody in this world, in almost every country women suffers sexual violence in some form or shape is disturbing.”

Forum session with Mary (top, most left), Madeleine Yong (top, middle), Dr Sharon (top, most right) and Komathi (bottom, most right)

Invited to be the panellists to share their valuable opinions on sexual violence in the forum were PWW Council Member Mary Anne Joseph, Co-creator of Power of Play-cum-Founder of P.S the Children Madeleine Yong and UTAR Faculty of Arts and Social Science Department of Psychology and Counselling Lecturer Komathi Lokithasan.

During the session, they shared their opinion on why sexual violence occurred and how knowing someone or trusting someone is specifically the contributing factor to sexual violence. They shared facts about whether sexual violence happens among different sexes as well as the taboos pertaining to sexual violence. They also shared how it doesn’t defer from the urban and rural areas as it happens across every segment and status of society with not only the children, young adults but also persons with disabilities, migrant workers and refugees as well. They also shared their opinion on how prevalent is online sexual violence, the symptoms of a person who is suffering from violation and possible ways to recover from trauma.

Places where the victims could reach out for help

“As mentioned by the panellists, a lot of times, victims of sexual violence are silenced by the perpetrator through extortion, through blackmail and through power imbalance. Sometimes they are quiet because of the consequences that they see; they think that they might be judged for what has happened or they might be stigmatised. Hence, if you do know someone who is going through this, do reach out to the organisation,” urged Dr Sharon.

Ng (bottom) and Charath (middle) presenting the mock cheque to Mary (top)

The campaign then saw a mock cheque presentation amounting RM2,000 by Ng and Charath on behalf of “Voices with Hope” to PWW. The funds were contributed by the campaign’s sponsors and donors, and through pre-event activities such as “I’m Here For You” and fundraising activity.

Receiving on behalf of PWW, Mary enthused, “We are overwhelmed with your contribution. It is a great honour for us to receive this amount. Thank you for your support and the time given to us to talk about the awareness on women and gender equality. On behalf of PWW, we really thank you, thank the public, the university and the management for the time taken. We hope to be in touch and work together with UTAR. We are grateful and we would continue doing this. Please bring more awareness of women issues. I hope the university students had a fruitful session today. At any one point if you need our help, please do let us know.”

The campaign was followed by two insightful talks presented by Kinohimitsu Malaysia Nutritionist Nur Syahnadz Zareith and Vibrance Pelvic Health Centre Sexologist Andrea Koh.

Nur delivered her talk titled “Caring for Yourself is Caring for Your Health”. “As we all know, the domestic violence cases in Malaysia has increased drastically especially during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period. Victims who suffered from the abuse either mentally or physically were experiencing emotional distress. They kept asking and questioning themselves why they deserve this kind of treatment; are they not worthy to live?” said Nur.

Nur explaining why physical health is important to create a better-self

However, according to research, with the advancement of technology, these victims have actually reached out to the world. They opened up about their painful experiences; they also shared how they grew out of it. Some of them even exposed the person who violated them and also how they grew not to be violated anymore. All of the experiences and stories shared had one thing in common, the victims realising that they have to start changing their way of life. They have to start respecting themselves and loving themselves more because they deserve better than being violated,” she continued. She then explained the definition of loving ourselves and how eating well is a form of self-love. She also provided guidance on simple steps to take care of our health.

Tips for a healthy body

She advised, “We have to learn to cherish, respect and love ourselves first in order for others to respect and love us.”

Nur (right) attending to the Q&A from the participants

On the other hand, Andrea Koh delivered her talk titled “Sexual Violence in a Relationship”. “According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), sexual violence is sexual activity when consent is not obtained or freely given. Everything we do, no matter with whom or in what situation, is considered sexual violence, harassment and assault when we are doing it without the person’s consent. This issue is actually quite common in our society but it is not taken seriously and, most of the time, people are left alone to deal with it.”

F-R-I-E-S explaining the definition of consent provided by the Women's Aid Organisation

She then explained the different types of sexual violence. Focusing on sexual coercion, she explained, “Sexual coercion is done in a nonphysical way. The victims may not be able to prove to people that they are being violated. Sexual coercion in a relationship is common because it may happen on purpose or without us knowing it. In another word, it means that you are forcing or pressuring someone into giving what you want.” She shared some common sexual pressures experienced by her customers from their partners. She also shared some negative views of a person who has fear of sex and its effect of negativity. She concluded her talk by explaining the importance of changing our view towards sex especially for the people who experienced sexual trauma and how we can create intimacy in other ways.

Andrea Koh explaining how sexual pressure affects individuals

Education and awareness on relationships and sex

She advised, “If you have experienced some form of sexual trauma, kindly seek professional help to overcome your fear because the longer you leave it unresolved, the harder it is to overcome it.”

Andrea Koh (right) during the Q&A session

“” determines the lucky winners of the day

The campaign also saw the announcement on top ten winners who participated in a pre-event activity called “Six Words, One Story” competition.

Some of the winners’ masterpiece in the “Six Words, One Story” competition

Social activists sharing session with Dr Lim (top left), Prof Sajaratulnisah (bottom left) and Chong (bottom right)

The social activists sharing session saw speakers from the University of Malaya Faculty of Medicine Department of Primary Care Medicine Prof Sajaratulnisah Othman presenting on “Supporting Sexual Violence Survivors in Healthcare System”; Department of Psychological Medicine Psychiatrist and Lecturer Dr Lim Poh Khuen presenting on “Mental Health Impact on Sexual Violence” and Parti Sosialis Malaysia Central Committee Chong Yee Shan presenting on “Violence towards the LGBT Community”.

In her talk, Prof Sajaratulnisah explained the different types of sexual violence and said, “It is illegal to share sexual images or videos in Malaysia especially when the intent is to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person. This is very important to know because with the current situation the internet has become a platform for various activities including sexual violence.”

Definition of sexual violence

“According to a local study conducted by Universiti Sains Malaysia Hospital, they revealed that among the 439 cases of sexual violence presented to the hospital, 61.3% of the perpetrators are someone known to the survivors, 26.3% are their own relatives and only 11.8% are strangers to the survivors,” said Prof Sajaratulnisah.

She then continued, “Love is not abuse, this need to be highlighted especially to the young people. The impact of sexual violence is felt during the incidence and immediately after. It can also last for a long time. The impact will not only affect their physical health but also their mental health and the person’s social life. They may struggle after the ordeal and support are needed for survivors of sexual violence.” 

What to do and not to do when someone discloses to us

Types of support offered by healthcare providers

Meanwhile, she also explained the services provided by OSCC (One-Stop-Crisis-Centre) which is available at any public hospitals in Malaysia for the abused victims. She also highlighted that aside from medical examination and care provided by the healthcare provider, they also provide medical forensic examination to bring the case to the legal platform once they obtained consent from the survivors. She said, “It is reminded to seek help if you are somehow affected by sexual violence regardless of how small you perceive it to be. You can also come to the health facility to get support because we are trained to provide support.” She also shared how we can offer help to the survivors, especially when someone discloses to us and how we can stop sexual violence together.

Chong, on the other hand, shared some stories on how sexual violence can be present among the LGBT community. She said, “Sexual assault cases happen in the LGBT community as well. It could come from their own family and outsiders. Most of the cases we handled came from an outsider, which is not their family member and mostly is a non-LGBT person. There are two reasons why rape cases happen between non-LGBT and LGBT. It is either due to general purpose whereby they just want to rape or because the rapist wants to correct the victims for becoming LGBT. Of course, we do have other scenarios on sexual assault happening within the same sex in our community. But, unfortunately, we do not have much data and resources in helping them or to know what is happening.”

She then continued, “The trauma from LGBT person is actually much serious. It is very important for them to get support, especially from their family members. But most of the cases that we see are in the closet, their family does not know their sexual orientation or their gender identity. So they do not have a support system. There were cases of forced marriages. People may wonder if forced marriage is a kind of sexual violence and yes it is. It happens mostly when their family members find out that they are interested in a same-sex relationship and they were forced to marry someone else without their consent.”

She then shared some real-life cases that she has been following up on the sexual violence against the LGBT community and her experience in accessing justice for them. She said, “Based on my experience in accessing justice, I think it is very important to have some training and engagement with the authority especially in the rural areas. This is to form some sort of common understanding on how we can handle cases for the LGBT community better.”

Dr Lim explaining what happens to our brain during a traumatic event

Last but not least, while explaining what happens to our brain during a traumatic event, Dr Lim said, “When our body senses danger, our reptilian brain and the limbic brain will take over for our survival. So sometimes victims feel that they have a lot of self-blame like ‘why did I not respond to the perpetrator’, ‘why did I allow him to do this to me’, ‘I should have said no, we were taught to say no, why did I not push him away’. But, it is not the victim’s fault because this is how our body reacts when we respond to danger. But a lot of victims carry this guilt and this feeling with them which will worsen their mental health. So if someone is exposed to high level or continuous exposure to stress, then their amygdala will be in an alert state, it will result in what we call hypervigilance.” She then explained the reactions to trauma which was divided into physical reaction, psychological reaction and behaviour.  She also shared some true stories that happened to her patients, how it impacted them and why some women remained silent. “

“During the past year, our NGO has received a lot of calls for domestic violence. Why is that so? The stay home, stay safe strategy that is supposed to protect us from the Covid-19 virus can actually create physical, economic and also mental stress amongst couples due to limited access to various economic and social resources,” said Dr Lim.

She then continued, “All these sexual assaults can lead to mental disorder because of the mental health distress that we are facing and the common one is the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The others include major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder and substance abuse problems.” She concluded her sharing session by explaining the types of treatments available for the victims which can help them in the recovery process and in empowering the survivors.


The social activists sharing session ended with an interactive Q&A session.

A group photo session with the speakers of social activists sharing session

Speaking at the closing ceremony, Vice Project Manager Gan Swee Ying said, “On behalf of 'Voices with Hope' organising team, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our esteemed panellists, moderator and speakers who have given us some insight and imparted their knowledge pertaining to sexual violence to all the participants. I would also like to thank our campaign ambassador, partners, PWW, UTAR SRC Sungai Long Campus and the generous sponsors who have joined us in our journey and become part of the movement. Thank you to all the supporters who were with us from the beginning. Not to forget, thank you to all the organising committee who worked together hand-in-hand to make this campaign a success.”

She then continued, “Although the campaign has come to an end, no doubt this is just the beginning to voice hope for the sexual violence victims and stand up against sexual violence. Believe it or not, through our small actions we can have a greater impact in preventing these cases from happening again. In order for the goals to be achieved, all of us are playing an important role not only the government or the private sectors, but also people like you and me. In the words of the late Mother Teresa, ‘Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love’.”

The virtual gallery — “We Survived: This is Our Story”

Confessions of the actual victims taken from the virtual gallery

Information from the virtual gallery

Some heart-warming messages from the community

Thank you to all the sponsors!

Bravo to the “Voices with Hope” committee members for the meaningful yet fruitful campaign
(Photo was taken from “Voices with Hope” Facebook page)

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