Tangier - Blaming the victim can be devastating to women who have been sexually assaulted and then are deemed “at fault” for their sexual harassment, even though they bear no responsibility for the crime committed against them.
Tangier – Blaming the victim can be devastating to women who have been sexually assaulted and then are deemed “at fault” for their sexual harassment, even though they bear no responsibility for the crime committed against them.
Yet it is a common and universal experience of women and girls who are subjected to sexual harassment and sex-based violence. Here are some accounts of Moroccan women whose lives have been negatively impacted by the crime and more importantly by others’ reactions to their reporting of the crime. Some of these victims were wearing hijab at the time of the assault, yet dressing modestly made no difference to the assailant.
Nadia, 24: “It was a normal day, I was in a café with my friends and I had to go to the toilet. Right after I went into the toilet, a man pushed the door so fast and so hard against me, and pushed me up against the wall. He was trying to kiss me, he was touching me everywhere with one hand on my mouth and the other hand trying to get my clothes off. I shouted as hard as I could and hit him as hard as I could, so that finally a girl came in and he got scared and confused and ran away. He ran away leaving me in hell. I was too scared, too angry, too disgusted with myself.
I went home crying to my parents, hoping they would help me feel safe and maybe help me report this crime against me to the police. But unfortunately, they blamed ME for what had happened to me in that toilet. They didn’t report anything to the police or even think that I needed help. Instead, they blamed me for going to the café, for going out — they blamed me for being me (a girl). Then, they locked me up at home, living with a burning pain. I felt that they ran away from me just the exact way he did, leaving me in a second hell.
Two years after this incident and after all the efforts I made with my parents so I can go out again, study again, and find a job, I have started to have a normal life again. But now, I’ve learned my lesson: If something like this ever happens again, I will never tell my parents or my sisters anything at all, because I will not live another double hell, I will only have to live one.”
Hajar, 22: “I was on the city bus, I was looking out the window, and suddenly I felt someone move in close to me. He stuck a knife into my left side and told me to give him any money or anything I had. I told him I had nothing, then he started touching my pockets, and he found nothing! But then he started brushing up against my body telling me if I dared to make any sound he would stab me. After two bus stops, he was done with me. I was crying. Many people looked right into my eyes, and I’m sure they felt that I was crying for help, but nobody made a single move. My harasser was finished fulfilling his sick sexual desire, with a laughing stupid face. He said, “See you later,” and he was gone. I kept crying for hours, and I’m still disgusted to this day. I hated the bus, I hated Meknes, I hated men.”
Fatimazahra, 22: “Oh my god, he was a very old man, he was jammed up against my back in this damn crowded bus. I turned my head and saw his lower part naked. I tried to escape, and I was about to faint because of how disgusting that view was…. That’s enough, I can’t add any more words. All I could think was, how could he? Why? He was like 80 years old or something. This is disgusting… I can’t talk about it anymore….”
The stories on public transportations are endless, so many victims. But, the feelings are the same, the words “hate,” “disgusting,” and “animal” were repeated again and again by the victims, and the amount of anger in the voices of these girls if it was put together could set the whole world on fire.
Lamiae, 17: “I often go out with my father, but it does not stop harassers from doing their daily dirty business, and my father is always getting into fights…. Sometimes I feel like we are living in a jungle.”
Meryem, 19: “Sexual harassment never stops, I’m really pissed off. It is everywhere, even inside my school! Even my best friend’s father harasses me, and when I told her she was just as embarrassed and angry as I am. That’s just horrible!”
Samiha, 24: “I’m harassed all day long, anywhere, anytime. I can never walk as I please. The other day I was with my friend, we were just sitting and talking while two guys came over us, making us uncomfortable, asking for our names and phone numbers. No matter how much we refused to talk or ask them to leave, they seem stupidly deaf, they ruined our evening just the same way the thousand others are ruining our walks and talks and our everyday life. I am so sick of it, sometimes I wish if I could make them disappear.”
I wish I could depict all the stories and all the suffering, but there are too many stories, too little time, and too little ink and paper to capture the magnitude of the problem. I wanted to tell these women’s stories because I so often hear girls (including me) saying, “oh if they just knew what their acts do to us!” People need to know. We may not be able to stop such assaults. But we can control how we react to the victims of such assault.
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