She Called Out Her Teacher’s Rape Joke on TikTok. Now She’s Being Sued.

The Malaysian student was slapped with a defamation lawsuit.

Aug 6 2021, 9:58am

Malaysian teenager Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam decided that she had had enough. 

In April, the 17-year-old student took to TikTok to share her account of a male teacher who made a rape joke during a gym class. “At first he approached the topic in a joking sort of way but his language slowly got more lewd and he started joking about rape, which prompted the boys in my class to laugh along as if it was nothing,” Ain said, recalling the events in a phone interview at the time with VICE World News.

“The irony was that he was teaching us about what minors should do if we ever got sexually harassed or assaulted,” she added. The teacher’s alleged remarks shocked Ain and left her feeling extremely uncomfortable.

“They were laughing and bonding over someone’s trauma and pain.” 

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Ain’s ordeal sparked fierce debate about abuse and misconduct that had been allowed to take place in Malaysian schools. Her plea to “make school a safer place” became the hashtag of an impassioned online movement, resonating strongly with women of all ages, who came forward to share their experiences.

Now, more than four months after she posted the TikTok video, the teacher is suing the teenager for one million ringgit (about $237,000) for damage caused to his reputation, Malaysian media outlets reported.

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.
An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

Writing on Twitter in Malay, Ain said she received “a letter of demand for defamatory statements” and had been given a week to respond. She said she was served the document while attending an online class, and would be questioned by police about the matter. 

Ain’s father Saiful Nizam was puzzled over the teacher’s decision to pursue a lawsuit when he had not been named in his daughter’s video. VICE World News reached out to representatives at Rasshidi Ema & Yung, the law firm representing the teacher. A spokesman confirmed that he was aware of the case but could not discuss it.

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The family declined to comment about the lawsuit but Saiful previously told VICE World News that he hoped to see justice for his daughter following the incident in April, when Ain was served a warning letter from her school. “Rape is no laughing matter and should not be joked about or taken lightly, no matter the circumstance,” he said in May. 

An error occurred while retrieving the Tweet. It might have been deleted.

While Ain has been applauded for her bravery in speaking up, she was also cyber-bullied, insulted by conservative religious politicians, and rebuked by her principal following the TikTok video. But it was a rape threat by a male classmate that traumatized her. “I didn’t go to school after that because I felt it was dangerous,” she told VICE World News in May, adding that she had also lost friends and was told by teachers that she was too emotional and sensitive about the joke.

“I’m really tired. All I wanted to do was make school a safer place for all.” 

“All I wanted to do was make school a safer place for all.”

Karen Lai, programme director of the Penang-based Women’s Center for Change, questioned the actions of both Ain’s teacher and her school. 

“Any person who feels that rape is something to joke about does not deserve to hold power,” Lai said. 

“What does it say about our system when a teacher, who was behaving inappropriately in the first place, can sue a child?”

Follow Heather Chen on Twitter

Tagged:

Female Empowerment, malaysia, worldnews

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