SPECIAL REPORT | A prominent dance instructor in Kuala Lumpur has been accused of raping and sexually assaulting his students during two separate incidents in 2017 and 2019.
The police, however, cleared him with regard to the first incident on the grounds that it was consensual but are still investigating the second incident.
The complainants told police during both incidents, the instructor had organised “special parties” for a selected group of female students.
The father of two would then allegedly serve copious amounts of alcohol and perform a choreographed dance in which he would strip naked.
The women - aged in their mid-twenties and early thirties - said they were too drunk to consent to sex.
The next day, the women said the instructor would convince them that what transpired was consensual and just something which “went out of hand.”
In both incidents, the instructor told the women before the parties that whatever happened that night must be kept a secret, adding that he would “only go as far as they would go.”
But according to the reports, the women found their instructor “penetrating” them without consent, and on some occasions even after they had refused or tried to stop him.
Coming up on Friday: Psychologists explain why some don’t fight back and remain friends with their rapists
In the first incident, the women told Malaysiakini that they remained silent out of shame and guilt. They also felt they were partly to blame and that no one would believe them, given his prominence in the scene.
The instructor, they alleged, also assured them that it was the first time this had happened.
Anna (not her real name) said she left the scene after witnessing the assault, because she felt fearful. The next morning, according to text messages sighted by Malaysiakini, the instructor said they had a fun night but the two women cannot remember what happened.
“He told me not to tell them (what happened),” she said.
“I thought maybe (the women) were embarrassed so I didn’t ask them anything,” she said.
Two years later, Anna found herself in another party attended by the dance instructor, where more students were allegedly attacked. This time, she refused to keep quiet.
'Post-traumatic stress disorder'
In three separate interviews, Malaysiakini spoke to four women who claimed they were either raped or molested by the same instructor.
In all the interviews, the women were either in tears or had to stop the interview to compose themselves. Some trembled as they recalled what happened. Some have stopped dancing - including those whose dance careers were hitting the international stage.
All the women who spoke to Malaysiakini sought therapy, underwent bouts of self-blame and believe they suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Now, whenever a man comes towards me, I feel scared.
“I try to keep myself busy by filling up all my free time. I was in a (different) dance class and our instructor, a gay man, put his hand on my shoulder and immediately, I felt frightened and (the alleged perpetrator's) face flashed in front of me. That was when I decided I needed to see a counsellor,” said one of them.
Malaysiakini is not identifying the dance instructor, the studio he teaches at or the women he reportedly attacked, to protect the survivors' identities and for legal reasons.
When contacted, police confirmed that reports were lodged against the instructor, who was then arrested and remanded for seven days to facilitate investigations.
The investigations, according to the police, are ongoing for the allegations which surfaced in 2019 but it is learnt that no charges would be brought against him with regard to the first incident.
Police had concluded the sex was consensual partly because of WhatsApp chat transcripts. The police said the messages showed the women remained friendly with the alleged perpetrator after the incident.
The instructor, when contacted, said he would provide a response to Malaysiakini. However, despite repeated attempts, this was not forthcoming.
In the 2017 incident, four women were invited to attend a party for their friend, organised by the instructor at his studio in an upper-middle-class neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur.
According to the police reports, by the end of the party, three of the women were allegedly raped or molested. One was unharmed because she left early.
The instructor was accused of trying to insert his finger and penis into one woman while she was lying on the floor in a drunken haze, and raping another woman from behind while she was ill and bent over the washroom sink.
Anna told Malaysiakini that the instructor had allegedly tried to remove her underwear, but managed to stop him.
She recalled getting up to use the washroom after that and abruptly sobering up once she urinated.
“I felt the room come back to me,” she told Malaysiakini.
In her police report, Anna said she opened the washroom door to find the dance instructor on top of another dancer. “He was already penetrating her,” she reported. Terrified for her safety, she fled the premises.
'Senseless and unconscious'
Nina (also not her real name) was the dancer Anna told police she saw under the instructor. Nina told police she was so inebriated at the time that she could barely open her eyes. She did not even realise the dance instructor was on her until she felt him penetrating her.
“I did not know when he came on top of me and I did not want this at all,” she said in her report.
When she realised what was happening, Nina said she sobered up abruptly. She said the instructor “suddenly stopped and moved away” from her. She got up “in a state of shock”. After that, she said she saw the instructor attack her friend.
Nina told police that her friend was “senseless and not conscious” and was bent over the sink “like she was vomiting.”
“Her long pants and panties were gone and I saw (the dance instructor) penetrating her from behind,” she added.
Shocked, she crouched in a corner of the studio and subsequently passed out.
The next morning, the instructor took the women to his house, which he shares with his wife, two children and mother.
He told his family they had too much to drink and needed to sleep it off. And while they did, he contacted Anna, who fled the studio after she saw him allegedly attack Nina.
“He told me both (the other dancers) do not remember anything. He told me if they had asked, just say you don't remember anything as well.
“I thought maybe my friends are embarrassed about what happened, and I did not know what happened after I left, so I agreed to pretend that I don't remember what happened.
“He said this is the first time this has happened, he didn't expect things to go this far. So I believed him and did not question further,” she told the police.
The 2019 incident
Two years later, Anna found herself in an eerily similar situation.
Her friend, who is also a dancer, had invited her to a bachelorette's party in a suite of a luxury hotel, on the sidelines of an international dance festival at the same venue. The dance festival was organised by the instructor.
Looking back, she said, the circumstances of the party were bizarre.
As it was a bachelorette's party, they were told a stripper would be there. But it was a belated party - the wedding was months before and the new “bride” was already in her final trimester of pregnancy.
Even so, the attendees - five female dancers from the same scene - obliged their friend since they were already at the hotel that day to attend the festival.
What they did not know was that the stripper would be their dance instructor - or that he would assault or rape them, according to one police report.
Speaking to Malaysiakini, the women said they would later find out that the instructor had personally curated the guest list and pressured the “bride” into having the party.
Malaysiakini was unable to interview the “bride”. Her friends said she was busy with her newborn. Before her baby was born, she had accompanied her friends to lodge a police report and called a meeting with other senior members of the scene to tell them what had happened.
The incident in July 2019 bore a remarkable resemblance to the 2017 incident, with the instructor allegedly telling them to keep whatever transpired under wraps and that he would “only go as far as they would go.”
Detailing the incident to the police, the dancer who had also attended the 2017 party, said she saw the instructor “penetrate” three women who were intoxicated.
“I did not see or hear him ask for consent,” she said, adding that she heard one of them asking, “Are you serious?” when penetrated.
She also witnessed one woman attempting to crawl away but was pinned down and penetrated from behind. This woman declined to speak to Malaysiakini, citing trauma.
“She tried to move away but he pulled her back,” one police report by a witness read.
Just like in 2017, Anna felt frightened by what she saw and left the party midway. But unlike two years before, in the following days, she contacted the other women to check on their wellbeing.
This was when the women learnt the instructor had sent them all the same apologetic text message the next morning, saying that things just “went out of hand.”
One survivor, who remained at the party until the end, claimed that before he left, the instructor told them “to take everything that happened to your grave.”
He also posted a thank you message on Facebook dedicated to those involved in the dance festival. In it was a vague apology for “things that happened which (he) was not proud of”.
He sent a copy of this posting, with the apology highlighted, to the women who attended the party.
But this time, it was not enough to persuade the women that it was something that “went out of hand”, as he had claimed. It also prompted them to reach out to another dancer who attended the 2017 party to find out what happened then.
“When I heard that, I realised this was suspiciously similar to what happened to me and (my friend) two years ago,” Nina, who told police the instructor raped her in 2017, said.
Mother, wife begged for reports to be retracted
When the dance instructor was under police remand, the women met with his family, including his wife, who was their friend and fellow dancer.
They claimed that his wife cried and begged them to retract the reports and blamed herself for giving him “too much independence”.
Whereas, his mother purportedly kneeled before them and begged that the reports be retracted as well.
“The mother said that it was her fault, that she didn’t teach him properly. You cannot imagine what it is like to see an old woman kneel in front of you begging you like that,” one of them said. It prompted her to retract the report.
She told Malaysiakini the retraction was not because the incident did not take place but because she felt sorry for the instructor's mother.
The senior members of the scene also told the survivors they would also be in trouble for participating in such a party.
The retraction, she said, prompted those who supported the instructor to spread rumours that the accusations were fabricated and that the sex was consensual.
“We don't really know if he would go to jail. But that is not why we are doing this,” added another dancer, whose report is still under investigation.
The women just want him to stop preying on young, hopeful dancers.
All the women have stopped attending lessons at the studio and have tried to warn other dancers about the situation.
The women also alleged that the management and other instructors want to keep the rest in the dark over the incidents.
In the scene’s WhatsApp group, those raising questions on safety were admonished. In one exchange sighted by Malaysiakini, a dance member said those raising the issue were harming the alleged perpetrator's children.
“The case is ending within a month or two and you know it […],” one member said.
At least two of the dancers have quit dancing entirely, including Nina.
Nina was a rising star. The dance instructor had sought her as his partner and promised he would train her to reach international status like how he did with his previous dance partners.
“People used to ask me why I do the dance, because the close proximity and movements seem sordid to them. But it did not feel that way to me. It was purely dance,” she said.
A year after the reported rape of 2017, she quit dancing because she could not stand being near him any longer.
“I really enjoyed dance. But all this has taken away the purity of dance for me,” she said.
Ostracised by the dance scene
Since the arrest, the women said, the dance scene has largely turned against them.
“‘If we could say no to him, then why couldn’t you?” one senior female member of the scene asked during an “emergency meeting” with some of the survivors after the instructor was detained.
When contacted, the senior female dancer declined to comment.
Another dancer, who has been active in the scene for many years, said she had never experienced anything inappropriate.
Despite not knowing anything about the incidents, she only agreed to speak to Malaysiakini about the scene on condition of anonymity because she did not want others in the scene to know she had spoken to a reporter.
Other members of the dance scene also blamed the women for what happened - they accused the women of drinking too much, placing themselves in unsafe situations, dressing or behaving provocatively and enjoying the sexual relations but are crying foul now out of shame.
The survivors said the senior members told them they should not have gone to the police, but seek help from the senior members instead.
Others also blamed the women for “tainting the dance scene” over an incident which “happened outside of dance”.
“I’m not involved in this. I just wanna dance,” one person said in the scene's WhatsApp group, after admonishing those raising the issue of safety for dancers.
Groomed by instructor
In retrospect, the women said, they felt they had been groomed by the instructor.
He was always testing their boundaries, one of them said, sharing nude photos of himself, trying to kiss or hug them in ways which they were not comfortable with - and normalising such behaviour.
They worry that they might have encouraged him by using friendly emojis or laughing at his sexualised behaviour in class.
One of them, with trembling hands, showed a message where she made a joke when the instructor told her that several senior members were targeting a new member to get her drunk.
“A friend from dance showed me a recent picture of (the instructor) with new students.
“I looked at the young women in the group and saw myself in them. I wish I knew then what I know now,” she added.
Friday: Why some don’t fight back and maintain relations with their rapists