Writers: Jana Mogahed and Lojain Assem
Editor: Khaled Mohamed
Designer: Malak Raslan
In the past couple of weeks, many sexual harassers were exposed as their victims mastered the courage to come forward and tell their stories. It is needless to say how proud we are of all the courageous survivors, but we must also come forward and discuss how society can play a huge role in creating a safe place for said survivors.
To quickly recap the many incidents that occurred the past month, we’ll start with Ahmed Tarek, a photographer known as Tarek.JPEG, who is a harasser that women have recently started calling out. He was accused of sexually harassing multiple women both physically and online. Shortly, he denied all accusations through an Instagram story and threatened to sue the victims. His Instagram account was later on banned due to the numerous reports filed against him.
Then we have Mohaned Kojak, who many male models have spoken out against regarding his sexual and inappropriate requests and conversations – exploiting the fact that these up-and-coming models were interested in working with him for his own benefit.
The story doesn’t end here, as marital rape has also been introduced to the conversation, with allegations being directed towards Tameem Younis.
In light of the recent occurrences, let’s start by defining harassment. Harassment is anything that makes the victim uncomfortable, devastated, and terrified. A lot of people have this misconception that sexual harassment is just physical; however, harassment can also be (and often is) either verbal, written, or visual. Any act that makes you uncomfortable is harassment.
What would it feel like if someone forces something on you, even when you put forward that you are uncomfortable? Frustrating, maybe even exasperating. Now, what would you do if you don’t have enough courage to tell anyone about it? THAT is exactly what a the survivor goes through when they’re being sexually harassed.
Usually, it would take a survivor a long time – perhaps even a couple of years – just to be able to share their experience with others. Keeping that in mind, as a supporter, you play a prominent role at times like these, especially when they come forward and speak out. With every person that stands on the harasser’s side, a survivor loses more hope of ever getting justice or revenge. Nevertheless, a single person showing support to the victim can make them feel supported and urged to not back down.
How could you show support, you ask? Well, support can come in many ways, with believing the victim on the top of the list. If the victim isn’t a part of your circle, a single share of a post revealing someone’s scandalous action would be enough to prove which side you’re on. Not to mention, empowering those who are not being heard. The closer the harasser and victim are to your circle, the more action you must take. In this situation, many people refuse to believe that a friend of theirs turned out to be a sexual harasser – which is exactly what you shouldn’t do. As a matter of fact, now should be the time when you start acknowledging the reality of your social circle and cutting out people that stay on the side of the unjust.
The appreciation a victim has for a stranger protecting them from harassment is indescribable, even if it was the merest thing, like standing between them and their harasser, the victim would feel so grateful to anyone who could work up the courage and protect them.
Furthermore, always remember that if you hear that a celebrity is in question for assault, the least you can do for the victims is to de-platform them, boycott their products, warn people about them, and most importantly speak up about your own experiences.
A male blogger once shared his story of being too emotionally weak, while too physically strong. He was in public transport when he caught a man very subtly sexually harassing a woman, inside of the vehicle. Instantly, his mind was empty yet boggled up with thoughts. He wanted to stop him, and he knew that it wouldn’t take much effort to beat him up as he was an old man. But at the same time, he could not bring himself to do it, he felt like his hands were stuck to his sides. At the end of the article, he said that he wanted to do anything to apologize to the woman and that this situation made him realize how scary it is to put a foot forward and defend oneself.
“Why didn’t they report or resist?”
While showing support, you must also understand why the victim didn’t speak out right away, as there are many factors that might be stopping them. Anyone facing this situation would have never been able to act or respond quickly. No one, either man or woman, in this distressing situation would have managed to get their minds straight.
Many people are afraid of calling out a harasser or reporting them due to the unmeaningful thoughts of how their reputation can be demolished or how they may not be believed. It’s a trauma every victim goes through.
Then, there are the apologists; those who try to find a way to turn the tables against the victims. Apologists are always as dreadful as the harasser in the eyes of a victim. They are the people that, regardless of all evidence and witnesses, always blame the victim in any way possible. Often going as far as accusing them of exaggerating or faking the story. Moreover, they give plenty of excuses that favor the harasser in question. What do they gain by belittling the victim’s experience? What do they gain by standing with the oppressor?
As stated by the Court of Cassation, court order number 8095, “The victim in any case is always the primary witness and their testimony may be enough for the court to be satisfied with no need of any further evidence”. This allows us to urge and encourage any survivor who experienced sexual harassment or might face it in the future, to report it and call out on the harasser for the entire world to know about and be warned of, so that no other person would fall in their trap.
This is no longer about having an opinion, this is reality, which you have to look at with a bird’s eye view.
This is not about men or women, it’s about an entire society’s attitude.
To every victim out there,
We hear you,
We see you,
We believe you,