Even though she was a sixteen-year-old minor, Hajar (pseudonym) wasn’t able to escape sexual violence and its repercussions, which is that much more painful and severe at the hands of relatives. The young woman tells Raseef22 that she was raped in her family circle, "I was raped by my aunt's husband, and as a result of his repeated assaults, I became pregnant. I was a minor and he would always pick me up from school to take me to my aunt's house, enacting all his fantasies on me and doing anything he wanted on the way, and would then threaten to kill me if I told my mother or any of my family members. This horrible situation went on like this for three years, until my uncle's wife discovered that I was pregnant, after she asked my mother why my belly had grown so large."
After the truth came out, Hajar found help and support from some family members, and was met with blame from other relatives who held her responsible for the double violence she was subjected to, given that she is a minor.
Supporting the "oppressor" is a must?
Today, she says that the support that singer Saad Lamjarred received, despite the fact that he is the one accused of rape, is not an exception, but something she has experienced before.
Even though the Paris Criminal Court sentenced the Moroccan singer to six years in prison on charges of raping and beating a French young woman inside a room in a high-end hotel in the French capital, voices in Morocco rose against the verdict. Some considered it a conspiracy against the "successful" Moroccan artist, and that the victim had fabricated the incident in order to destroy the artist's fame just because. These voices expressed their solidarity with the artist in his "ordeal", labeling him "oppressed" and wronged under the hashtags “#WeAreAllSaadLamjarred” and “#JusticeForSaadLamjarred”.
The voices that defended the Moroccan artist proclaimed anyone who stood in solidarity with the victim, Laura Briol, a traitor, and a conspirator with the "unjust" French judiciary. Some have even gone as far as to insult and curse any and all defenders of women who are victims of violence, whether they’re artists or Moroccan citizens.
All this fuss and confusion here isn't just about the judicial case, but is also about a society that normalizes violence on a daily basis. Whenever a woman is subjected to violence or sexual harassment, many voices come out to the surface in support of the perpetrator while blaming the victim who had been clearly subjected to violence. These same people are the ones who look for justification for this violence in the way she dresses, or the fact that she went out on the street alone, or that she was alone with the perpetrator.
Blame and insults are constant companions to sexual harassment and violence that a victim is subjected to. Usually, women not only have to face the perpetrator, but also other perpetrators who normalize all forms of male violence. Regrettably enough, these perpetrators aren’t only men, but also fellow women.
In this report, we spoke to Hajar and other women who were victims of violence or rape, and who told us of the blame and normalization they faced from some of their own gender during the incident or after exposing the attacker.
"My aunt blamed me when her husband raped me"
While speaking to us, Hajar confirms that the injustice she faced in the family environment, after they discovered her pregnancy, was not limited to the rapist, but extended to family members, including the aunts and the wife of the aggressor, who defended him instead of defending the victim.
"When my pregnancy was discovered, my uncle's wife questioned me, and I was speechless because of my fear of the death threat given by her husband that could be inflicted on me, my mother and father," she says, adding, "They took me to the doctor to confirm my pregnancy when I was sixteen years old."
"I found great support from my family, who supported me to punish the rapist who destroyed my life and the life of a child who was a victim of his oppression. But I found some members of my family who blamed me and threatened to kill me if I filed a complaint against the criminal."
After the minor was raped for years by her aunt's husband, her aunt and some others blamed and accused her of being the cause of the violence she was subjected to, amidst a widespread societal phenomenon in Morocco that blames victims instead of perpetrators
Hajar continues, "My aunt was the first of them. She was the one who took care of me from a young age as if I were her daughter, because she did not have children. She refused to believe the story of her husband raping a minor girl, and claimed that I was the one who enticed him into doing so, knowing that I was a minor girl and didn’t know what to do under threat.
In a tone full of frustration and resentment, she says, “It was not only his wife who defended him, but all my aunts stood by him and considered it was my fault. The rapist was sentenced to eight years in prison despite their desperate attempts to acquit him. I gave birth to my daughter and I am still studying, but my aunts have not spoken to me since the perpetrator was arrested, and whenever they have the chance, they would blame their niece who has been deprived of her childhood.
Hajar confirms that blaming the victim and siding with the rapist was not limited to the members of her family, but also with some of our female neighbors and students in the high school I continued my studies after the incident. They would look at me in disgust and evade me.
"The man who doesn't hit his wife is not a man"
Fatima (pseudonym) tells Raseef22, "I used to be beaten by my ex-husband on a weekly basis, if not daily. Whenever I’d ask him why he is late in the evening, he physically abuses me in our house upstairs, and in the morning I don't receive any support or questions from my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. Instead, every morning after the bloody night of violence I am subjected to, my ex-husband's mother decides that I am the reason for it.”
Speaking about the domestic violence she experienced, the Casablanca native says her mother-in-law used to point out to her, "Do as we did with our husbands. We never asked them about the reason they were late and where and with whom they were, in order to maintain the stability of the marital home," Fatima's mother-in-law insists that she is the reason for the violence, repeating the phrase, "My daughter, you are the one who is looking for a reason to get hit. Let him do it then”.
Voices raised in defense of rapists and harassers are a result of a society where women suffer from subservience to male authority and are denied the right to be independent beings with fair rights and freedom
My husband’s sisters try to defend him and incite him to beat me, and when I protest against them, they argue with the following phrase: "You always make him angry, he comes back tired from work to find you complaining. You should just thank God that he married you."
The victim says that even her family was on her ex-husband's side, "My mother also supported my ex-husband, and refused to report him to the police for fear of scandal and the shame that I would bring to the family as a divorced woman.”
Fatima confirms that the pain of blame and hurtful words she receives from the women around her is greater than the pain of the bruises and punches she was subjected to, which made her continue her violent marital relationship with her husband for years, adding, "If they had given me some psychological support, I would have been encouraged from the beginning to report him and request a divorce."
"Normalizing sexual violence"
Asmaa (pseudonym) recounts her experience with sexual harassment and the normalization that accompanied it. The young Moroccan woman living in Germany says, “During the summer holidays every year, my family and I used to visit Morocco, and in the summer of 2009, I started getting harassed by my cousin, who is ten years older than me. He would try to get close to me and touch some sensitive places on my body, until the summer of 2011, when he tried to kiss me and touch more sensitive areas of my body. I tried to stop him and tell my mother about it, and she in turn tried to tell my grandmother and my uncle's wife, but then those two blamed me for my ‘indecent’ way of dress! My grandmother ordered me to wear ‘decent and modest’ clothes so as not to arouse the desires of my cousins and neighbors, and not to stay with them alone in the same room and place.”
The young woman adds, “I didn’t accept the reaction of my grandmother and my uncle's wife, who defended her son in an attempt to exonerate him. I wondered if this had happened to me in Europe, would the way I was dealt with be completely different there? After this incident, in which I cannot forgive the harasser, his mother and my grandmother, I absolutely refused to visit Morocco, because I realized that there is normalization with all forms of violence.”
Usually, women in Morocco not only have to face the perpetrator, but also other perpetrators who normalize all forms of male violence, and sadly, these perpetrators aren’t only men, but also fellow women
She concludes with the words, "With the sentencing of the rapist Saad Lamjarred, I regret that some members of the Moroccan community are defending him despite being accused by many women of crimes of violence and rape, despite their knowledge of the severity of this criminal act, its punishment and its psychological and material impact on the victims and their families.”
Voices raised in defense of rapists and harassers are a result of a society where women suffer from subservience to male authority and are denied the right to be independent beings with fair rights and freedom.
The rights movement believes that in order to eliminate normalization with these criminal acts, it is necessary to reconsider our media, as well as television and film productions that glorify masculinity and the accompanying violence and contempt for women, in addition to correcting stereotypical ideas in our popular culture, such as proverbs, phrases and poems that encourage men to beat women, like the local proverb that translates to: "The husband who is unable to slaughter the Eid sacrifice himself or beat his wife, his death is better than his life.”