Cheong Jia Jin found her on a paid online dating-site, searched for her Instagram account, and decided to “hire” her for a date.
The 24-year-old Singaporean student then took her to the city-state's Changi Airport. There, he said he wanted to film a TikTok video with the 37-year-old woman in the stairwell of a carpark. They climbed up to the fourth storey. Checking to see if the coast was clear, he set up his phone—pointing the camera towards her before instructing her to face a wall.
Then Cheong attacked—wrapping his arm around her neck and choking her until she lost consciousness so that he could “satisfy his foot fetish” and smell her feet. Then he lifted up her shirt with the intention of molesting her breasts, before stopping. But the woman regained consciousness, getting up and grabbing her things to make a run for safety before calling the police with the help of a passerby driver.
The horrific event took place in 2020 and was heard in a Singapore criminal court this week, following months of lengthy police investigations and psychiatric reports.
Cheong pleaded guilty to one count of causing hurt and was jailed for eight months starting on Jan. 5. He faced a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of up to S$5,000. The woman was not named under a court order to protect her identity.
The case was the latest in a spate of lurid, alarming crimes of sexual violence against women in Singapore. Over the years, women of all ages have come forward with their accounts of abuse by men—strangers, partners, colleagues and classmates, which women’s rights activists and groups have decried as a “crisis of sexual violence.”
Medical reports found severe bruises around the woman’s neck area. A heart specialist at a local hospital also recorded that she had experienced numbness and cold sweats as a result of anxiety and panic attacks in the months after the brutal assault.
Cheong was arrested and remanded at a mental health institution for psychiatric evaluation. Police investigations yielded a recording of the assault from Cheong’s phone, and under questioning he admitted that he knew that he could have killed the woman through the attack. His lawyer argued that the assault was not “premeditated” and that Cheong did not target the woman. He also added that it was difficult to ascertain the incident's psychological impact on the woman without an expert's opinion, and urged for a sentence of not more than four months.
But the light sentence—eight months—outraged many, who argued that Cheong’s short jail time was symptomatic of the weak punishment often handed out to perpetrators of sexual violence in the country.
“An eight-month prison term is a joke,” wrote one Singaporean on Facebook in a comment that drew hundreds of likes. “Abusers [like him] are a danger to society. The act was so depraved, I can’t imagine being that woman and having to live with the fact that my abuser would be out freely later in the year.”