Interview: Police turned me away after sexual assault
Interview: Police turned me away after sexual assault
Tuesday, May 11,2010 15:35
By Eman Hashim

A degree in hand, she is readying herself for success. But like the vast majority of women in Egypt, she was the victim of a sexual assault that took place in Egypt’s many public spaces: on the bus.

She told Bikya Masr the story of the incident, and more shockingly, what the police did – rather did not do – in response.

BM: What happened, Reem?

Reem: It was Saturday. I took the bus and I was asleep when I felt something moving on my shoulder. When I woke up, I found out that it was the hand of the guy sitting on the chair behind me! I thought I was mistaken but I stayed awake. Then he did it again!

BM: How did that make you feel?

Reem: I was so mad! I remembered all the other times when something like this happened to me and I felt responsible. I told myself I should not shut up and I had to be more positive about it.

BM: What did you do?

Reem: I went to the driver and asked him if there was a police station on our way. He asked me why and I told him what had happened.

BM: What did he do?

Reem: He stopped the bus. And went to that guy and started yelling at him. At first he denied it, and then he said he had done it by mistake!

Then the driver told the traffic officer what had happened, and he gave that “look.”

BM: What do you mean by that “look”?

Reem: “Oh yeah, she’s one of those!” like I’m a kind of freak who is just acting crazy.

Then we, in the bus, stayed waiting for the police to come. It took them a few minutes to come and through these few minutes, people in the bus started saying the worst things.

BM: Like what?

Reem: There was one man who kept telling him not to apologize because then he would prove he had done something wrong!

Another kept giving different comments. Some of them were making fun of me, others were mad cause they were in a hurry, and some actually tried to get the idea of going to the police out of my mind!

BM: Then what happened at the police station?

Reem: The police officer asked me to tell him the story and I did.

His facial expressions, the look on his eyes, his body language were all sending all these negative signals. He made me feel like I was in a schoolyard after a kids fight! Then he told me it was a “minor” thing that didn’t require all that [attention]!

BM: You mean he didn’t show care?

Reem: Not only that, he made me feel scared! For the first time in that whole day I felt scared when I was at the police station. All during the events, both knowing that I was defending my rights and that I was heading to the police made me feel strong and stable. But after talking with the police officer, I started shaking inside, I kind of lost my confidence and felt I had nowhere to go!

BM: What do you think he meant by ‘minor’ incident?

Reem: What I understood from him is that touching is no big deal. So I asked him if I was supposed to wait till he raped me then come to the police, but by then I was being dealt with as a crazy child.

BM: Then what happened?

Reem: In the police station I was told that I would go nowhere with this; that if I insisted on filing a complaint I would be heading myself into a long police hassle that me – as a girl – couldn’t go through, and that during the procedures the guy who attacked me could easily counter-accuse me and I could end up being blamed for what happened!

They told me they would keep him for the night in prison to teach him a lesson and that that should be enough!

BM: So you didn’t file a complaint?

Reem: No

BM: And now, how do you look at the whole thing?

I just want to ask one question: where do I go if this is how I am treated at the police station? I of course blame the guy who attacked me and the people in the bus who not only did nothing, but tried to put the blame on me for refusing to accept this, but on top of all this, I am angry and hurt from how I was treated at the police station. Isn’t this the place where I am supposed to feel safe?

And next time if someone attacks me, I don’t want anyone to question me if I take his life with a knife! Yes! I will not accept being assaulted anymore, and if the police are not willing to protect me, then I’ll do anything to protect myself!

Republished With Permission From Bikya Masr