Privileges Committee hearing: WP’s Dennis Tan asks expert if Raeesah Khan’s sexual assault trauma caused her to lie


SINGAPORE – Whether Ms Raeesah Khan was inclined to lie due to the trauma of her sexual assault took center stage before Parliament’s Privileges Committee on Wednesday (December 22).

A member of the opposition Workers’ Party (WP) committee repeatedly asked a psychiatrist if this affected Ms Raeesah’s communications with WP leaders and collaborators.

However, Dr. Christopher Cheok, Acting Chief and Senior Consultant of the Institute of Mental Health’s Department of Forensic Psychiatry, has maintained throughout his testimony before the committee that this is unlikely to be the case and that Ms. Raeesah, a former WP MP, was sane.

The psychiatrist was invited to testify before the committee after assessing her, following a suggestion from WP leader Pritam Singh that the committee undertake a psychiatric assessment of her.

Based on Mr Singh’s testimony last week, Ms Raeesah had told WP leaders that she suffered from dissociation, a condition she described as talking without thinking.

Dr Cheok said on Wednesday Ms Raeesah does not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or even dissociation, and that she likely has a layman’s understanding of what dissociation is.

He said: “My overall opinion is that even though she had transient symptoms or some symptoms of PTSD, they were neither lasting nor persistent, and in the 10 years you requested, she did not have any symptoms of PTSD. persistent symptoms and it does. not interfere with her ability to function as a wife, as a mother and as an MP.

He was answering questions from Mr. Dennis Tan, WP MP for Hougang, about Ms. Raeesah’s mental health following her traumatic sexual assault experience as well as her state of mind over the past few months since she told the lies to Parliament.

She falsely claimed in Parliament that the police treated a sexual assault victim callously in her presence, but the truth was she was not there and had heard someone else’s story .

For about 50 minutes, Mr. Tan, the only opposition member on the privileges committee, repeatedly asked Dr. Cheok if the trauma would still have an effect on Ms. Raeesah whenever the sexual assault was brought up, from so it would affect his decision making on The Incident.

In response, Dr Cheok said that Ms Raeesah’s speech on August 3, when she first lied, was a prepared speech, and therefore, it was not something Ms Raeesah said in such a way. impulsive.

“In my opinion, she did not dissociate herself, or there was no psychiatric disorder that would have influenced her ability and sanity of mind to write this speech and to deliver this speech,” said the psychiatrist, who testified for about a year. half an hour, said.

Dr Cheok added, however, that it was not in his role to determine Ms Raeesah’s motives as to why she decided to lie in the first place, although he testified that she told him that this was due to her passionate belief in women’s issues.

This was in response to Mr. Tan’s question whether Ms. Raeesah’s experience with her assault had caused her to lie or why she had not substantiated her anecdote in Parliament as Mr. Singh had requested. .

Dr Cheok again said, “I don’t think her trauma experience would have directly caused her to want to write this particular anecdote.”

DID SHE CREATE “FALSE MEMORIES”?

When Ms. Raeesah admitted her dissociation to WP, Mr. Tan also repeatedly asked the psychiatrist if a person with trauma-induced dissociation or dissociative disorder would exhibit symptoms whenever the topic is brought up.

In particular, Mr. Tan investigated whether “creating false memories” or “blackouts” – possible symptoms of dissociation – had an impact on Ms. Raeesah’s actions after her August 3 lie.

These include the text message she sent to her assistants Loh Pei Ying and Yudhishthra Nathan after her August 8 meeting with Mr Singh, party chair Sylvia Lim and vice chair Faisal Manap.

In the message, she said she was told to take the information about her lie “from the grave.”

Mr. Tan asked the psychiatrist, “Would you agree that this could be an example where a person suffering from a certain trauma, while still generally staying high-level, could send a message but lie in such a way? selective in its statement in its message? “

Dr Cheok replied that he did not agree with Mr Tan’s statement. He noted that such a scenario is possible in general, but that there are many other explanations why a person might want to lie.

Later, responding to Mr Tan’s question whether Ms Raeesah’s trauma could trigger the creation of false memories, Dr Cheok said he did not assess that the former MP suffered from dissociation or traumatic dissociation.

“I don’t think that even when she spoke, or the subject of her sexual assault was mentioned, it affected her so badly that she lost her mental capacity.”

This led Mr. Tan to ask if he would rule him out definitively from even committing errors in judgment and lying when his trauma was brought up.

Dr Cheok replied, “In the Mental Capacity Law Manual it says that people can make bad judgments and make bad judgments does not mean that it is due to mental illness… Every normal human being. can make bad judgments.

When asked further by Mr Tan whether it could still be caused by the trauma, Dr Cheok said that in Ms Raeesah’s case, he did not think so.

DOES NOT SUFFER FROM PTSD, DISSOCIATION

Mr Tan also insisted to the psychiatrist on his conclusion that Ms Raeesah did not suffer from PTSD or dissociation, despite being admitted to WP that she was suffering from dissociation.

Dr Cheok said he believed Ms Raeesah did not have a thorough understanding of what the illness meant.

“If I remember correctly, she said her psychotherapist told her she had dissociation. I had asked her what she meant by dissociation, and her answer made me believe that she did not fully understand what dissociation was and when she used that term.

Mr. Tan then asked if it was possible for someone suffering from dissociation to use this knowledge as “an excuse”, thus using it to their advantage.

“It would be a simulation, wouldn’t it?” Dr Cheok asked. “If you say it in general, of course it’s possible, but that would be a simulation.”

Referring to Mr. Tan’s premise that such a person would suffer from dissociation, Dr. Cheok repeated, “(Ms. Raeesah) does not suffer from significant dissociation during the periods from August to December 3.”

Separately, Mr. Tan presented Dr. Cheok with evidence from the three PM leaders showing Ms. Raeesah had become emotional at several points during her discussions with them about her trauma and lies.

“How do you balance the fact that she is constantly emotional whenever this incident is mentioned … with your previous findings that she has no PTSD or dissociation?” Mr. Tan asked.

Dr Cheok clarified that although Ms Raeesah did not cross the threshold for PTSD, that does not mean that she did not suffer from symptoms of psychological trauma.

He said her emotional reactions were understandable and normal, and although people may exhibit such symptoms, they do not necessarily affect their mental functioning and judgment.

“Sexual assault is one of the most traumatic experiences a person has had. It is an attack on their person.

“I would be very surprised if anyone could talk about their sexual assault cleanly, casually, without emotion. I think it’s even more abnormal than being emotional talking about their sexual assault, ”he added.

He also said Ms Raeesah’s case had not reached the threshold in such a way that her judgment, decision-making ability or reality test was affected, although memories of her sexual assault may still upset her. .

Reality testing is a concept that describes a person’s ability to interpret a situation for what it really is, rather than what one wishes or fears it might be.

Dr Cheok said: “She was sane.”


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