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SMU student accused of molesting woman says he thought she consented to his advances

SINGAPORE — Taking the stand for the first time in his molestation trial, Singapore Management University (SMU) undergraduate Lee Yan Ru told a court several times on Monday (April 5) that he thought his alleged victim was “completely fine” with his advances.

SMU student Lee Yan Ru leaving the State Courts, April 5, 2021.

SMU student Lee Yan Ru leaving the State Courts, April 5, 2021.

  • Lee Yan Ru, 24, is on trial for molesting a woman he met through Instagram
  • He made advances on her throughout the night
  • She had told the court they were unwelcome but he testified that he thought she consented and was “completely fine” with them
  • This culminated in him rubbing his private parts against her chest after she fell asleep
  • Lee also claimed that she did not tell him she had a boyfriend

 

SINGAPORE — Taking the stand for the first time in his molestation trial, Singapore Management University (SMU) undergraduate Lee Yan Ru told a court several times on Monday (April 5) that he thought his alleged victim was “completely fine” with his advances.

She had testified, however, that his moves were unwelcome — including when he rubbed his private parts against her chest after she fell asleep in the SMU classroom they were studying in.

Lee, now aged 24 and in his fourth year at the university’s School of Business, is contesting a single charge of using criminal force with the intent to outrage the alleged victim’s modesty on Jan 8, 2019 at 6.30am.

The woman, now also aged about 24, cannot be named due to a court order to protect her identity. She was not an SMU student.

Lee had met her through social media platform Instagram before inviting her a few days later to an overnight study session.

Earlier in the trial, she alleged that he made several unwelcome advances before the 6.30am incident became the final straw.

They included him putting his foot on her thigh, squeezing her breasts under her bra after watching a movie on Netflix under a table, and trying to hold her down on a table and kiss her thrice.

But on Monday, Lee asserted that she had not rejected his moves, telling the court that he felt they had grown closer and more intimate over the evening.

‘I THOUGHT SHE WAS FINE WITH IT’

Over several hours of testimony, Lee gave his version of events about the days leading up to the incident and the incident itself.

He had found her on the “Explore” page of Instagram and complimented the sunglasses she was wearing. They first met in person a few days later at a cafe near SMU.

Lee said that he began poking her abdomen area after asking if she was ticklish. “She seemed completely fine with it… When I was poking her, it was very friendly between us. She was smiling all the way and did not show any signs of disagreement,” he added.

They continued talking over Telegram after he left and he soon asked if she wanted to have an overnight study session at SMU. He told the court he was “quite attracted” to her and wanted to know if she felt the same.

She arrived at the School of Economics building close to 1am, and they went to a classroom on the third floor to study.

He soon placed his feet on top of her thighs as they worked on their own assignments. “I was trying to get closer to her and wanted to know if she was fine with these playful interactions with me,” he testified.

He also disagreed with her account that she had moved his feet away, saying that his feet slid off sometimes as he “flapped” them.

They soon began watching a Netflix movie while lying on the ground, before moving under a table as the lights were bright. He tickled her underarm several times throughout the movie and she flicked his forehead several times.

He testified that while she said she would hit or punch him if he tickled her, he thought she meant it “in a joking or playful manner”.

When they finished watching the movie, Lee said that he touched her breasts under her top.

“I could recall her giggling for a moment… I thought we were getting more comfortable and intimate with each other, so I touched her right breast. I thought along the way and till then, she was fine with it.”

She then “gently” removed his hands and he decided to “take things step by step and not carry on with it”.

He also held her waist and pulled her back when she tried to move out from beneath the table, then hugged her after they stood.

“I could feel her loosen up and for a moment, I could feel her hands around my waist.

“I believed she was feeling comfortable to me as well and we were progressing well throughout the night. To me, she was completely fine with all my advances,” he added.

THE INCIDENT

Later, Lee said he also tried to kiss her several times and unhook her bra, though she had testified she was wearing a sports bra with no hooks.

The third time he kissed her, she said: “Ew” and wiped her cheek, which he thought meant she was fine with it.

He then pulled down his shorts and exposed his genitals, pressing it against her thigh while she sat on the table. “To me, and I believe to her as well, we were getting more and more intimate, so I took out my private part,” he said.

She did not respond and they later went for a smoke break. He hugged her in the lift, which was captured on closed-circuit television footage.

After they returned to the classroom, he fell asleep and woke up to find her lying on the ground beside him, her jacket covering her face. “I was very happy because it told me she was willing to spend more time with me,” he reiterated.

In an “aroused” state, he then went over, pulled down his shorts again and rubbed his private part across her chest, ejaculating in under 10 seconds.

“I believe she wanted me to carry on because I felt throughout the night, she was getting more comfortable, more intimate with me. There was this coy behaviour from her. I took it that she was fine with my advances, so when she said ‘stop’, I didn’t see it as ‘stop’ and carried on with what I was doing,” he added.

After the incident, he cleaned up the room while she packed her belongings. She flung a tactical pen — a type of self-defence tool — onto the table, telling him to wait for a lawyer’s letter and that his future was gone, among other things.

He added: “I was shocked because throughout the night, all the way till the end, I thought the whole process, she was fine with it. I believed (it) was consensual.”

She then left and went to a security guard post on the ground level. Police officers arrived after she called them.

RECEIVED TEXT MESSAGES

One of Lee’s lawyers, Ms Josephine Chee, also questioned him on events following the incident. He testified about feeling emotionally stressed about it and not feeling “very good”.

Around May 2019, he also found screenshots on online forum HardwareZone of an Instagram Story that the alleged victim’s boyfriend had posted. “I was quite scared and threatened. He said he was raging there — there was this picture, he said he was coming for me,” Lee said.

Lee said he then received messages from unknown numbers on Telegram and WhatsApp, one of which read: “You had the balls to DM (direct message) my girlfriend.”

Lee told the court that she had not mentioned having a boyfriend, and he has not contacted her since she lodged a police report against him.

The trial continues on Tuesday with the prosecution cross-examining him.

If found guilty of molestation, he could be jailed for up to two years, fined, caned, or receive any combination of the three penalties.

SMU has said previously it will take disciplinary action if Lee is found guilty.

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