On 12 May 2022, anime lovers and geeks of all ages rejoiced to learn about Anime Fest. For those of you who weren’t paying attention, this was a massive Animation, Comics and Games (ACG) convention — the largest that had been held in Malaysia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was great! The art, the games… the merchandise.
Where else can you pick up a set of lore-accurate (plastic) anime swords? Or support local artists by spending all your life savings on posters, keychains and other assorted knick-knacks? Not to mention all the exclusive items such as toys, models… and yes, body pillows.
But putting my awesome and totally not inappropriate new pillow aside, not everything about Anime Fest was fun. When you cram thousands of excited otaku into one point, there are bound to be problems.
Visitors had to deal with insane traffic jams, endless lines for popular stalls and of course our dear old friend: sexual harassment.
Why Does There Always Have to Be That One Guy?
During the last day of the Anime Fest, local cosplayer Pudds (probably not her real name) revealed that she had experienced an unpleasant encounter with a stalker.
While taking pictures with some fans, a man suddenly cut the queue and tried to get close to her. When Pudds’ friend warned him to back off, he began to cause a scene.
“He pushed my friend who tried to block him from getting close to me at the booth. Then he screamed and begged me to take a picture with him,” she said.
As it turned out, this wasn’t his first time either. Pudds explained that he had been stalking her online, refusing to leave her alone despite multiple requests.
“He even trailed me to my car at the parking lot yesterday,” she said, adding that he had threatened to commit suicide unless she unblocked him on Discord and other social media.
Shaken by the encounter, she went to the police to file a report against the stalker. Unfortunately, it turned out that the cops weren’t as helpful as she might have assumed…
“You’re also in the wrong”
Not wanting to waste any time, Pudds went to the police station immediately without changing her outfit. However, the officer she spoke to had some very… interesting opinions about the issue.
“The officer told me ‘you pakai macam ni, jual gambar macam ni, ini adalah consequences you. You pun juga salah.’” Pudds tweeted.
The officer later told her to “balik sekolah” and stop dressing up as if she’s a model in an agency… despite the fact that dressing up is literally her job.
Wanting to avoid trouble, Pudds decided not to start a scene at the station.
“I just told the police ‘ya bang semua salah saya, semua saya. Ok, bang,’” she said.
It may surprise you to know that the police aren’t actually supposed to treat victims like this. Gasp. Shocker, I know.
According to Petaling Jaya District Police Chief Mohamad Fakhruddin Abdul Hamid, the officer involved in Pudds’ situation would be investigated for a disciplinary infraction.
So alls well that ends well, right?
One of the reasons why the police chief had to make a public statement is that Pudds’ tweets went viral, spread about by her fans and ordinary netizens alike.
But would this incident have been investigated so quickly if she hadn’t been able to draw so much attention to it? If Pudds hadn’t posted her experiences on social media, would it all have just been swept under the rug?
“You’re just making this up for attention!”
As you might expect, certain groups (you know who they are) have already begun criticising Pudds and claiming that she’s just making up drama for attention or “getting what she deserves”.
First of all, she’s literally a professional cosplayer lah. If she wants attention, all she has to do is post a picture or video and she’ll get millions of views.
In fact, one of her latest videos posted on Facebook before this whole harassment incident is about “the dos and don’ts of being in an anime/cosplay event”. For maximum irony, tip number five is literally “as a respectful human being, please do not stalk people or making people uncomfortable”.
Putting that aside, what the heck is that whole “getting what she deserves” thing supposed to mean?
Oh, she dressed up like an anime character, so that means she wants to be harassed? By that logic, if someone dresses up in an expensive suit, does that mean that they actually want to be robbed? Maybe if you dressed up modestly, people wouldn’t be tempted to steal from you. Makes sense, right?
And it’s not just about Pudds either — this kind of victim blaming behaviour has a chilling effect on many other victims.
Victim Blaming Only Helps The Criminals
In April 2022, Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation Member Kamal Affandi Hashim pointed out that victim blaming was a serious problem in Malaysia.
When it comes to sexual harassment incidents such as groping or molesting, many victims are afraid to file a report with the police for fear of being blamed or made fun of.
“The victims don’t want to report to the police because they assume the matter is minor and they fear being made fun of. Because in the community, there are those who blame the victims in terms of their dressing, rather than focus on the issue itself,” he said during an interview with Free Malaysia Today.
“The community has to take some responsibility for this. They don’t realise that failing to focus on the real issue at hand, and victim-blaming, will only drive the number of these cases further.”
As an example, Hashim brought up a sexual assault case in Cyberjaya earlier this year. After the suspect was caught, the police realised that he had sexually assaulted five other women in the same area, two of whom had decided not to lodge a police report.
Malaysians Need to Change Our Attitude
One thing that really annoys me is that just about all of these victim blaming incidents have one thing in common: they involve some kind of sexual assault against women.
It’s only when this particular crime shows up that we start blaming the victims. But why should it stop there? We may as well start spreading it out to all other crimes then!
“Oh, your car got stolen? Well maybe you shouldn’t be driving such an expensive car around around a poor neighbourhood.” “Oh, your house got broken into? It’s your own fault for living in such a high class area.” “Oh, your bank account got robbed? Who asked you to keep all your money in there?“
It sounds ridiculous, right? So why are we allowing these kinds of attitudes to remain? A crime is a crime, no matter who the victim happens to be.
Until we can let go of these archaic attitudes and treat these sexual harassment crimes with the seriousness that they deserve, how can the victims ever receive the justice that they deserve?
To learn more about the kind of dangers that Malaysian women can face by just stepping out of their homes, check out: