Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Speaking Out - Sexual Assault and Cultural Predispositions

Today it has emerged that a large number of sexual assaults took place during NYE celebrations in Cologne by around "1,000 drunk and aggressive young men ... of Arab or North African appearance". One particular story to emerge from this series of incidences is as follows: 
One man described how his partner and 15-year-old daughter were surrounded by an enormous crowd outside the station and he was unable to help. "The attackers grabbed her and my partner's breasts and groped them between their legs" [www.bbc.com/news].
The first time I was ever sexually assaulted was by north Africans
I feel keenly for this 15 year old girl because when I was the same age I was also assaulted by a group of males in central Cairo - although it was clear what was happening (running up to me in an almost childish game and trying to grab at my genital region), not one local Egyptian came to my aid. During the same trip I was also groped on the genitals by an old man while he spoke to my mother - I was too stunned to say anything at the time but I was so distressed afterwards that my mother cut short our trip (and so I never got to see Alexandria). These two incidences constitute the first time a man ever touched me intimately - not ideal. A year later I got talking to a German exchange student at my school and she told me she had had a similar experience when she went to Egypt.

A barrier between men and women is created after a large number of women were sexually assaulted during protests in Cairo
Source: www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/09/sexual-violence-egypt-target-woman

















The second time I was sexually assaulted was by a north African
When I was 17 I was sexually assaulted again. I met a friendly Egyptian man in a club; he was kind of pushy but I was more flattered than cautious and agreed to allow him to take me out on a date at a restaurant. By the end of the meal I knew I had no interest in him and politely got up to leave. He insisted on walking me to the station. On the way he suddenly grabbed me and pushed me in a car and, bizarrely, insisted on driving me home. I was too scared to tell him where I really lived and asked him to drop me off a few streets away. When I got out of the car he pushed me against a wall and started groping me. I freed myself by sort of sliding downwards out of his arms and then literally running away and hiding in a building for a while. That was the end of that.

The third (and hopefully last) time I was sexually assaulted was by a north African
When I was 18 I was sexually assaulted again. I had been on a date with another man (an Anglo Australian man who claimed to be a poet) who turned out to be a jerk. He made an offensive remark which made me cry. I told him I was going to the loo and then walked out of the restaurant. As I did so I had to walk through a bar, still crying. Suddenly a smiling Moroccan man grabbed my attention (he may have touched me or just placed himself in front of me, I don't remember exactly) and said something about how I looked like I could do with a smoke. It so happened that cannabis was exactly what I wanted at that precise moment. He said I should come back to his place as he had plenty. I did and as soon as the door shut behind me my heart sank. The door was deadlocked and so began the most terrifying night of my life. I remember crying silently and filled with so much fear that I kept repeating the word "mummy" over and over again in my head. I managed to convince him I was a virgin (actually I wasn't - though I was relatively inexperienced, innocent and stupid - convincing him of my virginity made him desist from penetrative intercourse) so it wasn't as bad as it could have been but it was bad enough and it went on for hours. I still remember so vividly the intense relief when he finally let me leave in the morning. Did I go straight to the police? No, I went straight to a priest's home and had a cup of tea with him and his wife (he was an Anglican priest) and we talked about the pitfalls of my sinful (!) lifestyle. Soon after I cut my hair very short and went through a lesbian phase for around a year - I guess I was a LUG - I didn't want to know about men.

What am I getting at?
The purpose of this post is simply to tell my story - I'm speaking up about what is otherwise hidden and shameful. I don't really know what conclusions can be drawn from it other than to point out that had I not had the above mentioned experiences I would never have been sexually assaulted (there have also been a few random guys who have suddenly flashed their genitals at me but I wouldn't call those occasions assaults). I don't think all north Africans are bad (honest), nor do I think Islam is necessarily to blame (I actually had a very nice friendship/very brief-relationship with a Indonesian Muslim from my school when I was 16 and he was a perfect gentleman). I guess all I am doing here is sharing my story and entreating any one who reads it not to be naive - the fact is that some men from different parts of the world, and north Africa may be one of those regions, can have ideas regarding sex and consent which are quite different from those commonly held in Western countries and are, frankly, dangerously misogynistic.* Teenage girls can be the most vulnerable of all and they are the ones who will likely pay the highest price for ignoring these realities - a truly civilised person does his or her best to protect children and young people from harm, this includes highlighting where harm may come from based on real life experience. If even one young woman (or her parent) exercises a bit more caution after reading this, and so avoids being assaulted as I was, then this has been a worthy mission.

* For example, studies estimate that the overwhelming majority of women in Egypt have endured sexual harassment: theguardian.com.


Note that this is likely a temporary post - I will probably take it down later on due to its off-topic nature.

Written by M. Sentia Figula.

4 comments:

  1. It's very difficult for me to make any comment to this personal and sensitive post. I can here express only my sincere solidarity and support to you. There are no other words...
    Your terrible experiences confirm my personal idea that any free "real" woman and man has the duty to refuse those ideologies based on the idea of "discrimnination". Everyone of us has this personal responsibility also in transmitting to the future generations the value of being a free woman or man.

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    1. Thanks Carmelo! I did feel a bit weird about writing this post - still do actually. Of course I absolutely agree with you regarding the importance of freedom and identifying harmful ideologies. My hope is that once people start to accept there actually is a problem that a solution (or a series of incremental solutions) can then follow. Cultural predispositions are not fixed, they can change, in fact the law of nature is that they will, like everything else in the universe, inevitably change.

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  2. Thank you for writing this post, I agree with both comments, there is an important task and duty we have to identify and change criminal aspects of culture, like is the case for sexual behaviour of men in certain countries.

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