“Not a child rapist, but a penetrator of a 15 year old”: Eisen Teo and Semantic Diversions

By Syd

Sexual assault trigger warning. This post is related to convicted sex offender Eisen Teo Guan Kuan.

A few days ago, Eisen Teo’s lawyers sent a Twitter user a threatening letter warning that “should [the Twitter user] choose to stay [their] course, then our client will have no choice but to take further action.” The letter implied that Eisen’s lawyers objected to a particular set of tweets:

The letter then goes on to clarify that Eisen was “indeed charged with and convicted of sexual penetration of a 15 year old minor.” Without explicitly stating so, Eisen’s lawyers are suggesting that, because Eisen was charged under 376A (Sexual Penetration of Minor Under 16) and because a child is defined as below the age of 14 in Singapore, he is neither a pedophile nor a rapist.

Several other Eisen supporters also made similar arguments:

Mr FZ, who describes himself as a “Roman Catholic, father of two, lawyer, and a conservative,” went on to claim that “these are not just semantics.” He is wrong. It is a sickening game of semantics that FZ and others like him are playing.

In 2011, Eisen Teo was a 27-year-old Straits Times journalist who worked on the IN magazine, which is “a publication by The Straits Times exclusively for secondary school students.” He also led student activities as part of a media club that met weekly. His future victim joined the club at the age of 14 as a student journalist. He found out that she suffered from depression and subsequently began grooming her. By the time she was 15, Eisen had already talked her into oral sex in early 2012 and intercourse in June 2012. Two days later after the latter, the girl “tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists and swallowing Panadol pills in a toilet after a media club meeting at *Scape mall.”

I really cannot believe how many times multiple people have had to clarify this, but this was a case of an adult abusing the power relations inherent in both the age/maturity difference and his position of authority to initiate sexual relations. There really is no other way to understand this than the gradual and careful grooming of a vulnerable child. The law is not the end all and be all. At best, the law can have its blindspots and loopholes; at worst, it can be unjust. In this case, if you find yourself stating that Eisen is not a pedophile or a rapist because the law defines blah, blah, blah… then you are missing the larger point.

So let me state it once again:

  1. From 2011 to 2012, Eisen Teo put into effect a gradual plan to condition a child in order to rape her (yes, a 15 year old is a child no matter what the law says or how early society starts sexualizing women; and, yes, a full-grown man penetrating a 15 year old is rape).
  2. Eisen Teo served his 18-month sentence and subsequently got on with his life and career.
  3. In 2020, a random Twitter user (accurately) points out what Eisen Teo did in the past and calls on others to stop giving him a platform (which is well within their rights), while also expressing their belief that Eisen is unlikely to be denied a platform because the society that we live in has already rewarded him handsomely.
  4. Eisen sends his lawyers after the Twitter user. Not having the resources to face possible litigation, the Twitter user removes their Tweet.
  5. This is the point where we (and others online) stepped in to show our support for the Twitter user and to call for the deplatforming of Eisen because of his silencing tactics, which, like his rape, relies on an abuse of power and privilege.

As we have clarified elsewhere, this had nothing to do with wanting to “cancel” (whatever that means) Eisen or to deny him a second chance. We absolutely believe in second chances. More importantly, unlike many of our critics, we also believe in first chances. At this point, it seems like RI and NUS boys can do whatever the hell they want and get second, third, and fourth chances, while the rest of us have to scrap around and try to piece together our very first chance…

We are absolutely for providing opportunities and chances to all people. But we are not inclined to support a child rapist who uses his wealth to silence a random Twitter user.

None of this implies that Eisen should be thrown in jail for the rest of his life. We believe in moving from a punitive carceral system to a restorative, reparative, and reformative justice system. Prisons neither provide justice to the victim nor facilitate reform of the offender. So fuck prisons. It doesn’t matter how long Eisen spent in prison. What matters is what actions he takes afterwards to truly change. Lashing out at someone for bringing up the past shows that he hasn’t come to terms with what he did.

When you do something wrong, you have own it. You have to come to understand that some people may never forgive you for as long as you live. But you must still resolve to take the necessary steps to come to terms with your actions and your responsibilities:

  1. Go to therapy.
  2. Donate to organisations that support victims of sexual abuse and women’s rights.
  3. Don’t put yourself in situations where you are working with or mentoring young people.
  4. And, for God’s sake, don’t make use of the power differential to intimidate and silence someone.

And don’t do all this expecting a pat on the back. Do all this (and more) because you truly are remorseful. You can’t change the past, but you dedicate your present and future to being a better person. Believe me, Eisen, if you had been doing this, we wouldn’t even have written any of this.

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