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*Author’s note: for another similar read, check this article.
I was walking with my friend near the pier yesterday.
It was broad daylight, and the old souk—a few seconds away from the pier—was crowded with people and tourists. There were restaurants, small stores, and open pubs around us. Sellers were ushering us to their mini diners and souvenir shops—just a normal day in this city.
My friend was telling me a funny story that had happened with her, and I was so immersed in it and giggling at the hilarious parts. But for a split moment, I couldn’t hear her anymore as my ears were solely focused on the catcalls coming from right across the street.
“Look at you, pretty women. I wish it would rain, so I can see your wet shirt.”
My heart began to pound; my ears started ringing; my fight or flight reflexes were combatting in my muscles.
From the corner of my eye, I could see several men sitting by their motorcycles and looking at us from head to toe.
My first thought was to continue talking with my friend and completely ignore whatever those men had said, in the hopes that she did not hear them lest she’d feel afraid or, worse, ready to fight back.
I’m all for woman power, but honestly, being outnumbered and putting ourselves under threat of a physical attack is a huge risk.
I quickened my pace, and when we finally reached our cars and were safely inside with the doors locked, I breathed out.
We’ll make it home while it’s still light out there, and we’ll catch the highway in a few minutes, so chances are we possibly lost them.
While this might not be the most brutal story in the history of women walking down the street and being catcalled by a bunch of disrespectful assh*les, this is not the first nor the last.
Not every woman walks, gets catcalled, and manages to get away without an assault. Not every woman is catcalled; some are immediately attacked. Women rarely (if not at all) believe getting sexual comments from strangers is flattering. Women are forced to walk in groups or with other physically strong people, or forced to learn self-defense because the rise in the number of women who are attacked on a daily basis keeps rising.
According to the World Health Organization, 736 million women globally experience violence by partners and non-partners across their lifetime.
Alexandra Topping states in her article in The Guardian, “More than 750,000 adults aged 16-74 were victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault in the year ending March 2020, according to the data published by the ONS. There were 618,000 female victims, four times as many as male.”
As if this is not enough, as I was reading the story of Sabina Nessa, I was in tears because it’s not the world that isn’t fair, it’s the humans living in it who make it a dangerous place.
We’ve heard so many horrible things while walking the streets.
These are a few of the things my friends, family members, and myself have heard at some point:
“Hey, mate, you think I can open her like I can open this bottle of beer?”
*Whistles* “It’s a shame for this beauty to be alone tonight!”
“Hey, what’re you hiding under that dress?”
Other times, they don’t have to catcall us. Actions are enough to terrify the hell out of us. Some have slid on the ground to see under our skirts; others have given us the finger if we don’t answer them.
Not too long ago, a teenage Lebanese girl was walking through the streets from one building to another (only 10 minutes away) when a guy suddenly offered to clean “the dirt that was stuck on the back of her pants.” Without waiting for her response, he grabbed her butt. She elbowed him hard and started running madly and crying. He ran after her, hoping he could catch her. Thankfully, she reached her aunt’s house and closed the door behind her. But the perpetrator was still waiting by the gate and touching himself. He had his pants down, and he was touching himself.
(The girl’s brother shared the story and kept seeking the attacker until the police caught him. In an interview with him, he further expanded on the story.)
There are so many different stories, ones that are shared online by girls who are sick of this, and others that are hidden in the dark because of an overwhelming fear.
Every living person on earth should have the right to walk down the street and feel safe without worrying if their clothes are “too revealing,” if their ethnicity attracts bullies, if their sexual orientation is displeasing to others, or if others don’t agree with their religion.
The world is supposed to be a safe place for all.
Why do I have to feel safe only when I’m with my boyfriend or my parents?
Why can’t I walk to the store alone or come back from a party and enjoy a night drive without worrying that someone is going to intentionally bump into me or make unsolicited advances?
Why do I have to text my loved ones that I reached home whenever I’m out so they won’t panic?
How many stories of verbally and sexually assaulted women should we hear before we start to see an actual change happen?