Harassment unpunished

Muna Al-Fuzai

In the first week of January, Kuwait Times published an important report about harassment in Kuwait. I would first like to thank my colleague Ben Garcia for addressing such a sensitive topic. I read the whole report and felt that there are some points that I need to address today and add my view on the subject as a woman and a Kuwaiti citizen.

I believe that the issue of harassment is kept under silence or not spoken about publicly due to the fact that usually the victim – who is most often a woman or a child – feels ashamed, scared and shocked about what happened to them. So they tend to avoid talking about it and think it will never happen to them again or no one would believe them, especially in the case of rape, and if the rapist is a relative or someone they know from school or work.

According to Ahmed Al-Mutairi, a Kuwaiti lawyer, “rape or sexual harassment cases are mostly unreported, and reported cases don’t actually reach to the level of courts because victims consider it shameful or an attack to their dignity/honor.” I personally feel that not reporting these crimes is more harmful than reporting them. I believe that not talking about the crime will not hide it and it might happen again, leading the victim to be harmed more, while the rapist will be free to commit the same crime with a new victim, if not the same. The damage will fall on the victim only.

Another issue here is the lack of support by the civil society – we don’t have support groups like the West to help those who are abused or raped, for example, to move on with their lives and regain people’s trust by not allowing one crazy person or a bad incident to damage their lives. Also, I think the problem in cases of sexual harassment and rape is that the victim is always made to feel that they motivated and provoked the criminal to attack them. A lack of sympathy and understanding is shown.
If the victim is a woman, she may be accused of not being conservative in her clothes, and in case the victim is a child, parents are blamed for not paying enough attention to their kid, because of which they were attacked by a maniac. Eventually, everyone gets blamed, but no one utters a word against the rapist, except that he was offered the right situation! This is unfair and completely unjust, but this is the reality.
About the right situation, let us suppose a woman is raped by a relative, like a brother or father or family friend, whom she trusts; of course she will not be covered in black while dealing with them. Naturally, she will have confidence in her blood relatives. He will only choose the right moment when the woman is alone to attack her. I can’t understand how and why she must take the blame! If the victim is a child, then I assume a child normally has full trust in his family circle and the places they may go to daily, like a supermarket and school for example. So there is no way they can encourage a sex manic to attack them.

Parents usually get enraged when they hear that their child has been raped, and barrage the child with questions about all the details as if they are the guilty one. They don’t seek help from specialists like psychologists, and questions by the police can add to the pressure. So I understand the child’s reaction to not say a word, especially if they are threatened with harm if they say anything to their parents. In the end, only the child will be harmed all their life.

I know that going to court will not be the end to all sex maniacs around the world, but stopping a criminal will mean that his crime will not go unpunished, and he will not be allowed to do it again or against a new person. It also sends a warning that society will not accept such crimes. The case sometimes takes years for a final court verdict. This may seem a long time for the victim, but saying nothing or accepting financial compensation will most likely mean that the rapist will be free and no one is safe. I refuse any kind of monetary compensation because the harm is already done and no money in the world will make the victim become normal like before.

By Muna Al-Fuzai
muna@kuwaittimes.net