“Five years ago, a teacher sexually assaulted me. He touched my breasts and my body. I asked him to lock the restroom door. It was stupid. There was also a security camera. I did what I did, to act like everything was normal because I was afraid others would know I was being sexually assaulted. I thought it was shameful. I thought society would condemn me for allowing a man to assault me.”
These are the words to the Facebook post on 20 September by 20-year-old Nalinrat Tuthubthim. In the post, she detailed her experience from when she was 16 years old.
According to the post, this was the third incident regarding the teacher in question. The teacher who said to her, “You give consent.” However, Nalinrat explained in the post that her “consent” was out of fear and ignorance.
“When I walked into the restroom, he kept switching the light on and off. I was scared and started to cry. So he put his arms around me and asked, “Are you okay? I didn’t think you would be so scared.”
“Of course, I didn’t do anything. I actually thought the teacher was playing a prank innocently. I thought to myself that he was a good teacher,” she wrote.
The first incident was when the teacher stroked her leg after he took her home on his motorbike. The second incident involved tricking her into sitting astride on his motorbike, so that when he brake, which he repeatedly did, her chest would bounce on his back.
In July this year, she gathered enough courage to approach the school authorities.
The answer she received was, “We already have the [safety] measures, but we understand that there are bad people among good people. No matter the measures, there will be those breaking the rules,”
“We can’t introduce specific [safety] measures for the school, because we are an educational facility under the Education Ministry.”
She was told, “Many teachers touch the kids out of affection. If you study psychology, you would know it is to make the kids feel good.”
An hour after her post went public, she received a message from one of the school teachers. He asked her to take the post down, worried that she was ruining the school’s reputation.
The past five years
Over a phone interview, Nalinrat told us she has been suffering from mental health issues. She had nightmares of sexual assaults and had tried to commit suicide.
“Schools [in Thailand] are the place that creates and normalizes the authoritarian system and the sexual harassment,” she said.
“The sexual harassment is just the tip of the iceberg; there are many other problems beneath it.”
However, as Nalinrat witnesses young Thais’ political awakening, with students from high school to universities demanding justice and safety, she feels there’s hope.
Blame the victim
Traditionally, Thai culture blames the victim. As per Nalinrat’s quote at the top of the article, it frames a victim mentality of “suffering in silence.”
“If I put myself in a ‘risky’ situation, the society would automatically think that ‘I was asking for it,’” Nalinrat said.
Even news headlines reinforce this belief system. For example: “Security footage revealed the victim was wearing a short dress” or “Teacher revealed the student wanted to trade sex for a grade.” Somehow, it’s always the victim’s fault.
“It’s not just teaching about sexual harassment,” said Nalinrat. “But more about teaching people to respect each other’s rights.”
Children must know their rights
Nalinrat explained that when the first incident happened, she did not realize it was wrong. Until later, when she told her friends, one of whom said it’s sexual assault.
“In Thailand, children don’t have any rights to say no to any physical abuses or authoritarianism from the adults,” Nalinrat said. “Children don’t know what rights they have, so they end up giving ‘consent,’ out of fear and the thought that they are supposed to, that the adults are always right.”
“My school never taught us anything about consent.”
After her Facebook post caught on, Nalinrat received both sympathy and condemnation. The disapproval comes mainly from older generation people who attacked her for being “inappropriate” and “aggressive,” and that she’s ruining the school’s reputation.
“The older generation keeps fighting this, which makes the younger generation seem even more aggressive,” said Nalinrat.
They need to stop fighting the truth and hiding problems, pretending like everything is perfect. We should expose problems and fix them.”
According to Nalinrat, her intention is not to ruin the school’s reputation.
“So, let’s talk and fix this together. I’m not trying to burn anyone down,” she said.