This post was in my draft folder but after hearing about yesterday’s online sexual harassment fiasco in Amman I decided this is the best time to move it from draft to publish.
First of all I would like to commend on the girl who decided to go public about this repeated sexual harassment thing. Knowing the culture in Jordan I would say she is a brave woman who deserves full support.
Here are two stories about women who decided it to break their silent:
I am not very sure what my age in this story was but I still remember some details clearly for some reason. I was around the age of 12 or 13 more or less. While playing with other kids outside our apartment building, a girl in her late teens or early 20s called her 16 or 17 year-old brother, who was with us, from the balcony. She told him something about the barber whose shop is opposite to our building. It seems the barber made it a habit to stare at the girl and annoy her with some smiles and gestures whenever she goes to the balcony to hang out the washed clothes for drying. The sister finally decided to seek help by telling her brother and telling him about the barber. Of course this led to a quarrel between the brother and the barber. At that time I blamed the sister, I thought she should have not told her brother. But I was a kid. The girl had it being the prey and wanted retaliation against her predator.
I heard the following story from my aunt who is a practicing lawyer now. One day while returning back home from the university she felt someone was following her. She was walking in the downtown during the day time. She tried to walk faster and slower to make sure whether he was following her or not. As a man I would be agitated and anxious if I knew someone is following me for no reason so how about if it happened to a girl. When my aunt was sure he was following her she stopped near a policeman, who happened to be there, and told him about the guy and asked him loudly to arrest him. She wanted other people in the street to hear her not just the policeman. My aunt thought that when she makes a scene she would get help from the people in the street but what happened was something shameful. The people who gathered tried to calm her down and tell her that there is no need to go to the police satiation. She told me the people told her all kind of excuses as if she was the oppressor not the victim. They told her that if she insisted in taking him to jail she has to go to the police station and it is not good for a girl to go there. They told her that the forgiver is an honorable person (in Arabic, Elmsameh kareem) and many other excuses. The strange thing is not only men who were talking her out of taking this guy to jail but women as well. Anyway, when the policeman saw she was persistent he took the guy in his car and she followed them in a taxi to the police station. I forgot what happened next. But I am very proud of my aunty. I believe she only were able to do that because her father (my late grandfather who was a Mufti and a religion teacher) taught her that women are no less than men and that she can defend herself any time because her voice needs to be heard. Unfortunately in Jordan, some other fathers or brothers would scold their daughter or sister if she does what my aunt did. They would think of her retaliation as a disgrace and that the girl would brought to them a public embarrassment because first she made a seen in the street and second because she went to the police station.
If a woman does not want her daughter to be harassed in the future like her she should break her silence now. Also, men need to show their wives, sisters and daughters their full support when the women decide to break that silent. Don’t let your daughter or sister feel ashamed defending herself. You should encourage her to stand up for herself and live with more confident.