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‘It’s evident how close his male private parts were to me’: Woman accuses gym-goer at Paya Lebar of sexual harassment

 ‘It’s evident how close his male private parts were to me’: Woman accuses gym-goer at Paya Lebar of sexual harassment
PHOTO: Stomp

He was given a written warning.

A woman alleged she was sexually harassed by a man who did pull-ups over her head in the 24XFitness gym at SingPost Centre in Paya Lebar on May 3.

What made it worse for Stomp contributor Zenn was that after she reported the incident to the gym staff, she felt victim-blamed.

In response to a Stomp query, the police confirmed that a report was lodged and said they are looking into the matter.

The Stomp contributor shared a 22-second video of the incident at the squat and pull-up rack, which is for both exercises, though probably not at the same time.

She took the video of herself in the wall mirror sitting on the floor and resting between her squat sets as the man stood over her and started to do pull-ups near her head.

The Stomp contributor said in the video: "I'm using the squat rack and there's another one there."

She panned the camera to show another squat and pull-up rack beside the one she was using.

"But he's insisting on doing this here," she said of the man doing pull-ups right above her.

He was so close to her that the video shows a close-up of the bottom of the his shoes.

The Stomp contributor told him: "This is borderline sexual harassment, you know that?"

The man appeared to be threatening to kick her head when he said: "Don't let me do it, I'm telling you."

As the man went up and down on the pull-up bars, the Stomp contributor said: "Ow."

She told Stomp that the man hit her head with his leg.

"Throughout my video, it is evident how close his male private parts were to me," she said. "Even if it was part of his workout, it was extremely uncomfortable and even traumatising to have a stranger’s genitals placed so intentionally closely to me."

In the video, the Stomp contributor told the man: "I'm reporting you to the gym."

But he ignored her and continued doing several more pull-ups before walking away.

"This is borderline sexual harassment," the Stomp contributor said in the video before it ends.

She told Stomp: "Before this video, this man had already approached me to 'ask' to use the rack. Mind you, he did not not verbally ask — just pointed and didn't wait for my response — and immediately went up to use the pull-up rack.

"I definitely did not consent to it because my rest time between sets was already up. When he just took my squat rack without permission, I said 'what the f***?' out loud."

When contacted by Stomp, a spokesperson for 24XFitness said that after the Stomp contributor reported the incident to the gym, it conducted an investigation to find out what happened.

The spokesperson said that according to the gym's CCTV recording, which did not have sound, the man sought the Stomp contributor’s permission to share the equipment she was using at 4.46pm.

"After permission was given to the male gym member to share the equipment, he then proceeded with his pull-up exercise and left afterward," said the spokesperson.

The Stomp contributor disputed this, saying: "He merely pointed and I had no chance to response before he proceeded to use his equipment."

The gym had called the man to get his side of the story.

"He claimed he approached her to share the squat and pull up rack when she was not using, which she had allowed the first time. But the second time, she did not allow him to share even when she was not using the equipment." said the spokesperson.

When he returned to ask the third time, the man explained that he needed to use that particular machine as it was wider and more suited for his body frame.

The Stomp contributor told Stomp: "This was patently untrue because there is another squat rack with a pull-up bar (seen in the video) that is of the exact specs."

The spokesperson continued: "This was when an exchange of words between both of them came into play. The male member then proceeded to use the equipment despite her disapproval, hence the video she recorded."

After speaking to the man, the gym also checked with two witnesses who were beside the squat and pull-up rack during the incident.

"They mentioned that the lady was very rude and used profanities towards the male member," said the spokesperson.


The Stomp contributor said: "This was because the male member had already threatened me, raised his voice at me and was insistent on something that is not an entitlement.

"I used one profanity, which was 'WTF', out of shock when the male member first encroached upon my personal space. I do not believe this justifies his actions towards me."

The spokesperson said the gym called the Stomp contributor, but she wanted to use WhatsApp.

The Stomp contributor told Stomp: "During this call, when I insisted on providing the story via WhatsApp, she called me ‘uncooperative’."

The spokesperson continued: "In the text, we asked her a few things which included, did she use any profanities towards the male member? She replied 'None from me.'"

The Stomp contributor explained to Stomp: "I did caveat this is as far as I can remember and I apologise that my memory failed during a traumatic incident which I can only hope to forget one day."

On May 4, the gym contacted the Stomp contributor to inform her that based on the findings, "we are not in the appropriate position to deem it as a “sexual harassment' case" and advised her to go to the police.

"With this being said," added the spokesperson, "we have also suggested to her that she should refrain from using profanities towards the male member when she was approached the second time to request to share the equipment which had triggered the incident as we have witnesses in the area who confirmed what happened during that time."

The Stomp contributor refuted this, saying: "This was not what was communicated to me. They told me to stay away from the male member when I have never once approached him of my own accord."

The spokesperson said the gym made it very clear to the man that his actions were inappropriate and he was given a written warning.

When the gym informed the Stomp contributor, she was unhappy that the man was not banned from the gym like she wanted.

On May 7, the gym's managing director, Zen Lee, called the Stomp contributor and apologised for what happened, according to the spokesperson.

"While he was explaining the details of the investigation, she cut him off by saying 'I don’t want to hear all this,'" said the spokesperson. "She just demanded an immediate answer from him if the management agreed to the decision of not terminating the male member, and the answer is yes, we are not terminating the male member."

The Stomp contributor recalled the phone call differently.


She told Stomp: "To be clear, Zen Lee did not apologise. He called me, raising his voice over the phone, to say that the reason the harassment happened was because I used a profanity on the male gym member. This reads like victim blaming.

"When I asked him why he is raising his voice at me, he said it is because he wanted to ‘explain the details’. I cut him off because he continued to raise his voice."

The Stomp contributor has since posted a one-star Google review of the gym following the incident, which led to more one-star reviews by non-members of the gym claiming that the gym failed to protect its members from sexual harassment, lamented the spokesperson.

"All this happened after we were asked by the female member to terminate the male member's membership, which we felt was not warranted based on our findings," said the spokesperson. "At the same time, we strongly believe that the male member could have been more patient and gentlemanly towards a member of the opposite sex and a fellow fitness enthusiast. Thus the written warning given by us."

Unswayed, the Stomp contributor alleged that the man is friends with the gym's management. She also alleged other occasions where the gym did nothing after a member reported being sexually harassed.

"I think my biggest question is, how anyone can imply that I deserved what the man did to me, solely because I was allegedly 'rude to him' and 'used profanity'," said the Stomp contributor.

ALSO READ: Only 3 in 10 feel safe reporting cases of sexual crimes in Singapore, AsiaOne survey finds

This article was first published in Stomp. Permission required for reproduction.

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