Local Teenage magazine's harsh response grabs global media attention

If you have been on social media over the weekend - chances are, by now you may already be familiar with the backlash against the Singapore version of Teenage magazine and its popular "Dear Kelly" advice column.

The local lifestyle and entertainment magazine for teenagers,  published a rather harsh response titled "Raped after lying to mum" to a reader, that caused many to stand up for the young girl and showing their displeasure to the magazine.

Despite the magazine publishing an apology on its official Facebook page, it didn't manage to convince majority of the audience on its sincerity in addressing the issue (scroll to the bottom to read the response).

Now, the matter has gotten global spotlight with BBC UK and Daily Mail publishing its version of "Teenage magazine sparks anger over 'victim-blaming' rape advice," which details the whole saga. It's also not the first time that local news related to sexuality has caught the attention of international media. Earlier in July this year, BBC also reported on National University of Singapore (NUS) investigating its orientation camps when reports surfaced that its first-year students were made to simulate a rape scene as part of their induction.

While some may think this unwanted global attention above have an impact on how people view Singapore, PR professionals doubt so.

Edwin Yeo, general manager of Strategic Public Relations Group Singapore (SPRGS) said, "I doubt that the international community will treat the Teenage Magazine as representative of Singapore's social fabric."

Meanwhile,  Lars Voedisch, managing director of PRecious Communications said the incident may have a short term impact, but will only fall under less significant scopes and impression.  On the bright side, Voedisch said the incident has created awareness about the discussion on not to victimise rape victims.

In addressing on the latest reports which started to question whether "Kelly Chopard" is indeed the writer of the column, or it's been penned by just another staff writer,  Yeo suggested that the magazine should reflect on their editorial standard as to the kind of advice being published and whether the entire column is genuinely authentic.

Yeo added that the magazine "should apologise sincerely about the column, acknowledge it was wrong to have published that advice and it isn't something teenage stands for."

"I think it is important to clarify their stand that rape is wrong in any circumstance and that the magazine is in no way blaming any rape victim," he added.

Going forward, Voedisch added that the magazine has to be extra sensitive.

"They should either stay away from the topic at all or use that as an opportunity to become an advocate to further raise awareness for the matter. They could spearhead or front further conversations on this topic," he added.

Teenage Magazine's publisher did not respond to Marketing's queries on the backlash or advertiser impact.

Meanwhile, check out the official response on the backlash published by the magazine on its Facebook below. The supposed writer "Kelly Chopard" has also issued a statement on the incident.

Jolene Tan, head of advocacy and research of AWARE (Association of Women For Action and Research) has also published an open letter on its website last Friday and urged the magazine to issue an apology in its next issue.

"Rather than berate and judge victims of sexual assault, you should send the clear message that rape and sexual assault is never the victim’s fault, and encourage them to seek support and help," said Tan.