How to Act When Sexually Harassed?

Question and answer details
XX (29-female-Egypt)
Actually as most girls I’ve been exposed to several incidents of sexual harassment in different forms.. alhamdulillah they were not that serious; I know that other girls may have been exposed to more insulting situations. My question is more of a general one and not for a specific incident that happened to me; I'm asking about harassment in general in case anyone of us encounters this in her life as in my country there is indeed a high rate of sexual harassment.. My question is:I always run in my mind an imaginary situation where I'm being harassed and imagining what my reaction will be at that moment; and I just feel that I will be incapable of doing anything or even not capable of uttering a single word. In doing this may be I'm trying to prepare myself and train myself in case such situation happens but I feel so bad when I feel that in such a situation I will not be able to take any positive reaction.Actually, this thinking is based on my reactions in similar situations when I experienced incidents of harassment; I remember that only in one of the incidents I reacted by shouting and lightly beating the man.I don't know what the reason for not taking a reaction would be, but one reason could be that in many instances I am not really sure if I was touched by mistake or on purpose because in these incidents I would be in crowded places, so when I feel I'm touched it takes me some time to figure out what happened and if this was by mistake or not and so this makes it difficult to react in time.Another worry that comes in my mind when I think of how I will react in the future is that I don't know exactly what I have to do in such situations. How to get back my right and have this person punished for what he did? I really always look for being a proactive woman and not a passive one and would like to act as a strong woman who could help in reducing such thing from society.Please provide me with advice on how to react in such situations and how to prepare myself for taking positive reaction in such situations.
Dr. Maryam Bachmeier

Assalam `alaykum dear Sister,

Sexual-Harassment1Indeed you bring up a very sensitive issue. The problems of sexual harassment and even rape are in every country. As a collective humanity, we have still not been able to eradicate it.

Many good men want this situation resolved also, as they love their mothers, their sisters, their daughters and their wives. I would consider the consequences of hitting a man, even though he touched you inappropriately. Not because he doesn’t deserve it, but because you could be arrested or he could hurt you.

The only thing that has been effective in the west is women banning together and fighting for the laws to be changed and for the police to pay attention when we call them. Reporting these kinds of incidences to the police and having the person arrested and having this be a usual response by all women and the society that you live in is probably the only way to decrease these incidents.

In the west, many women took self defense lessons. When women in mass do this, men take note and their behavior is likely to become modified. Self-defense isn’t just hitting a man leaving yourself wide open for him to hit you back…harder (they have superior upper body strength), but you learn ways to show the man that he can’t touch you. Sometimes, even walking a certain way and taking preventative measures is the best option and we learn this in our self defense classes.

Always appearing as if you know exactly where you are going (even if you don’t); avoiding crowds where men will be less than arms length away from you if at all possible, never walking alone at night, walking with other women and not being alone in dangerous areas. Always have a phone with you and set the police number so that you can push one button if at all possible.

All these are some ways to avoid being harassed and to increase your sense of safety. If you take self defense and a man tries to rape you, you will be trained to fight him off, and hurt him… then run, but don’t try any of those techniques without being trained first. It is very dangerous for a woman to try to overpower a man if she does not have the skills. However, most perpetrators do not have the skills that a woman is taught in self defense and so, it is worth taking if you are in an area with high risk for rape.

With that said, if at all possible, do not go into areas where you are at high risk of harassment or rape if at all possible. If you have to, see if you can find a male escort. That is the best protection.

It is sad that our societies have not evolved so that women can be safe. We need to be realistic and deal with the situation as it is. I pray that some of these safety tips are helpful to you. It is unlikely that we will be free from this any time in the near future. Women in the USA continue to be raped at an alarming rate. Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.

Here's the math. According to the U.S. Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey --there is an average of 207,754 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year.—retrieved from http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/frequency-of-sexual-assault (6/9/2012)

My own personal belief is that changes in societies and even the Global change that is needed to reduce human violence, crimes against humanity, and war requires inner change and that men and women truly acquire a desire to come close to ALLAH regardless of their culture… This and this alone will put an end to the continuation of trauma. Until then, we ladies must be ladies and avoid situations where we will be abused whenever possible.

Thank you for writing in as this helps to keep our brothers and sisters aware that we still have this problem and it needs to be addressed as a society.

For further guidance, please try the following links:



About the Counselor:

Dr. Bachmeier is a clinical psychologist who has been working in the mental health field for over 15 years. She is also a published researcher, former adjunct professor at Argosy University, writer, and consultant to her Spiritual community in the areas of mental health, clinical disorders,  cultural, family and relationship issues, and more.