Women and men in Egypt, who spoke of their first encounters with harassment as children, shared horrific stories of sexual harassment on a trending hashtag this week.
Hundreds of stories were shared using the Arabic hashtag “First time to encounter sexual harassment my age,” shedding light on the phenomenon, which appears to have affected both women and men.
Most of those who said they experienced harassment revealed that the harassment took place when they were at a very young age, some as young as four-years-old. The hashtag revealed that relatives and neighbors committed the majority of harassments.
One social media user wrote that they were four-years-old when the cousin of their mother harassed them. They wrote: “I did not really understand anything nor what was going on, but I used to fear him a lot.”
Another user wrote: “I was four, from my uncle’s son, who was 24-years-old. The second harassment incident was at the age of 10, from our neighbor and my father’s friend, a 55-year-old. The third incident occurred to me at the same age from my uncle, who raised me, and was 60-years-old.”
While another wrote she was subjected to harassment from an instructor who taught her to memorize the Quran.
“First time to encounter sexual harassment my age was six or seven, from the sheikh who my brother and I used to go to in order to learn the Quran.”
One woman raised eyebrows when she mentioned how her parents reacted when she told them she was sexually harassed. The first thing they asked was: “Did any of the neighbors see you?”
A male Facebook user wrote that he was just seven when an adult relative kept on attempting to harass him until he reached the age of 10.
“[I] was seven and it was by a relative who was 20 years older than me and kept on trying until I reached the age of 10, he then gave up. I did not understand at the time, but when I did, I felt that I hated my body and I have a problem in letting anyone touch me.”
Many commentators said they were shocked to see how “heartbreaking” and “terrifying” those incidents were.
One user described the hashtag saying it is “a painful hashtag because it is so real, and documents catastrophic social facts.”