9 out of 10 Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives. Just over this past week, two incidents were brought to light and went viral on Social Media.
An airport employee took unsolicited pictures of Basma Bishay while she was taking her bags off baggage claim. When she realized this and told airport security, they took turns passing around the harasser’s phone and looking at her and other women’s pictures, and Basma was yelled at by one of them. Action was taken against the harasser only when the police got involved.
The other incident is still unfolding as we speak. Since January, some people have been talking about a famous photographer being a harasser. After he recently held an exhibition that was attended by many famous figures, the stories resurfaced and more and more women spoke up. Up until very recently, people talked about him without mentioning his name, he’s commonly known as “Jpeg”. One of his victims, told her and other women’s stories on her Instagram stories. This powerful and popular photographer sent unsolicited pictures of his genitals to women who had clearly expressed discomfort. Another victim said he touched her in a way that made her uncomfortable and didn’t stop when she expressed she wasn’t okay with this.
Like always, these incidents opened up a vault of opinions and discussions. Of course, a multitude of the opinions expressed include bafflement that women don’t speak up earlier, don’t say a louder no, or don’t report these odd men to the police right away. Well, in response to these opinions and in support of all the brave survivors who are speaking up, here are 6 reasons why it’s not easy for women to report sexual assault.
1. Because People Don’t Believe Them
We’ve all heard “she’s only doing this for attention”, “but he would never do that!”, “But he’s friends with a lot of women”, “she probably just didn’t get his sense of humor”. Or, as Jpeg perfectly showcased, “they’re only saying this to tear him down because he’s successful.” However, speaking up when you’ve been assaulted is never easy, I think these two incidents show that. Women don’t win anything by accusing someone of assault, on the contrary, they lose quite a lot because society is always quick to make them into attention-seeking liars and the harassers into the victims. So, always believe the survivors, because almost every time, in spite of how much you believe the guy would never do that, he has and it’s true.
2. Because People Blame Them
Where do we even start? “What was she wearing?” “Why did she go there?” “she gave him signals” “she wanted it” “why did she stay out so late?” “She was saying No but she meant yes.” These questions don’t just come from strangers online. They come from the survivor’s family members, her friends, even the people on the street who see the assault happen. No one blames a murder victim for getting murdered, sexual assault is just as much of a crime.
3. Because People Care More About The Harasser’s Future than Women’s Safety
How many times have you been told “let it go” “ he’s young and has a life ahead of him”, “he has a wife and kids”. Some women manage to make it to the courthouse but eventually give up the case because they have the harasser and the whole of society to go against.
4. Because they’re told “ostory 3la nafsek w balash fadaye7”
Every time a woman gets assaulted it’s somehow considered to be shameful for her, like she’s somehow become damaged goods. This all stems from the same idea that she’s brought this on to herself, that she could’ve prevented it but somehow chose to get assaulted. What’s worst of all is that when the assault comes from a family member, women are ten times more likely not to speak up because of the “fedee7a”.
5. Because the Assault Comes from Powerful People
Though at first glance you might think assault comes from an uneducated thug while roaming the streets, that’s not always the case. In fact, these past two years tell us that they can come from anyone regardless of their education level or social class. When the harasser has fame and power on his side all of the above reasons are amplified. Not just because he’ll have the power to keep it under wraps for longer, or because he has more weapons to use against the survivor, but also because people don’t want to believe the people they idolize are capable of causing such harm. But, the past decade has taught us that they are and we shouldn’t put anyone on a pedestal.
6. Because Sometimes It Takes A While To Realize You Were Assaulted
Experiencing sexual assault can be traumatic. The woman may be in shock or denial or, gets gaslighted by the assaulter or his apologists, and only realizes after some time that what happened to her was assault.
All of these reasons are part of Rape Culture, the culture that legitimizes rape and sexual assault and allows them to go unpunished. It’s a culture that blames the victim, doesn’t believe her, and sides with her abuser. In spite of this culture though, we see more and more survivors speaking up and reporting their abusers. And, one by one they’ll change these narratives until no harasser goes unpunished. In the meantime, we’re happy to ride this wave of change along with you. To all survivors, we see you, we believe you, and we stand with you. Reach out to us through this email: email@example.com and we’ll do everything we can to assist you.