I have just recently become a fan of ‘Community Times’ a magazine published in English here in Egypt. It’s very informative and up to date with what is going on in the country, as well as being very well written. In the December issue of the magazine they have dedicated a section to ‘Standing Up To Sexual Harassment’.
A little over a week ago I heard from a reliable source that Egypt is now the number one country in the world for crimes of rape and sexual harassment according to ‘The American Embassy’s’.
I have to commend ‘Community Times’ for allowing women to come forward to speak up about the traumatic experiences that they have experienced. It is a subject that is shied away from and should never be spoken of. When a woman does make a complaint or try to press charges she is usually made to feel that she provoked the attack by ‘asking’ for it some how. ‘Community Times’ is trying to change that so that eventually enough voices will be heard so that it will cause a change and authorities will have to listen!
Having lived here for as long as I have, I have unfortunately had more than my share of ‘Sexual Harassment’ experiences.
I remember walking home from school one day with my mother and sister and this car pulled up next to us and the driver called out to my mother ‘how much you want?’
On another occasion I was walking next to my sister and talking to her when she was next to me one minute and gone the next. A man had grabbed her by the arm and pulled her to his side.
As I got older, I dressed more conservatively to try to draw less attention to myself. Being fair-skinned with freckles, colored eyes and straight hair doesn’t go un-noticed here. It didn’t always work though.
Of the many incidents I will share two. I was returning from University and had just parked my car in the garage across the street from where I live and as I was walking towards where I lived and about to round the corner, some guy pushed me against the wall of the Lebanese Consulate building, behind the guard post and tried to press his mouth against me. I couldn’t find my voice to scream or yell, but my instinct of trying to throw the person off me. What seemed like ages they guy eventually ran off.
Another instance I had a late night lecture at university, when for some unknown reason the security guards kicked us off campus. I was sat in my car right out side the University gate, waiting for a colleague to come back from making a phone call. When some guy jumped in through my car window and tried to put his hands all and lips all over me!
Every time something like that happened I would feel dirty and have moments of doubt that perhaps I had some how provoked an attack and that I deserved it. The incidents would be on auto replay in my mind and when I’d close my eyes to sleep, I would relive it over and over again. I didn’t ask for it and I certainly didn’t want it to happen to me.
In every instance I wasn’t dressed provocatively; I was dressed modestly and by no means inviting a violation of any kind.
I have decided to take a different approach and NOT let these men win and make me their life time victim. I won’t let what happened to me imprison me in my mind or my house. I won’t put my life on hold and sink back in to the shadows. I pick myself up and hold my head up and continue to strive forward. I have also learned some defense techniques to help me if I am ever faced with another situation again.
I decided to write a piece for the Community Times and to assist them in their quest to give women a voice. Revisiting the experience brought back memories that I had tried to lock away and feelings that I had hoped I would never feel again. However, reliving the memories for this cause was worth it. It’s high time that ‘we’ come out of the shadows of shame and speak up, to try to stop men from disrespecting woman and mistreating them and being able to walk away without knowing what pain, trauma they have inflicted on the women that they targeted.
I AM STANDING, SPEAKING UP AND SPEAKING OUT AND SHOUTING OUT NO MORE!