Beginning with the introduction of the HarassMap: Using Crowdsourced Data to Map Sexual Harassment in Egypt by Chelsea Young, all I could keep being reminded of are the cyclical themes associated with sexual assault. Lots of assaults go unreported as “victims of sexual harassment continue to face a high degree of stigma and shame.” But what makes Egypt different from the Western world is the staggering UN report statistic that 99.3% of women in Egypt who report being sexually harassed. With the identification of these issues of shaming and a lack of reporting, Harrassmap allows the anonymous report of sexual harassment, attempting to overcome the barriers that are initially preventing women from reporting harassment or even accessing services and resources to deal with trauma from said harassment. This is where Digital Media can be liberating, through this anonymity and crowd-sourcing technology, creating a community of women with a voice, helping one another when their state or institutions won’t.
The implications of sexual harassment on the public sphere are direct, halting women’s participation and mobility. According to Ilahi, If women are fearful of harassment, whether verbal or physical, they inevitably change their actions, not traveling alone, avoiding eye contact, and even restricting where they go at certain times of the day. With these change in appearances and actions, women have been deemed, in Egypt, as “devoid of sexuality and absent from the public sphere, and it leaves women vulnerable to accusations of blame for the harassment that they do experience if they have not conformed to traditional feminine roles linked to their behaviour and attire,” (Ilahi, 2009).
With HarassMap, these challenges are limited with a more accessible and safer form of documentation of sexual harassment. One can use social media or even SMS to share experiences, of course anonymously, creating a community of victims who can not only share traumatic stories but empower one another and understand they are not alone.
Through the creation of communities, HarassMap looks to introduce conversations about violence into communities that perceive such actions as normal and acceptable. As this crowd fund technology started in Kenya and moved to Egypt, and is funded by grants from international development research center, the conversation isn’t limited to Egypt but rather is a Global one.
It is absurd, irrational and shocking to hear, even in America, and on the Case Study graphic for HarassMap, that people perceive the idea that victims of harassment are to blame. This is a global concept discussed a lot in regard to sexual assault on university campuses and is heightened when dealing with sexual assault in the Middle East. This stigma needs to change if the conversation on sexual assault will move in a progressive direction, to think that we still can’t identify a victim as a victim and are in denial, shaming them, saying they asked for it, is disgusting and can be changed via digital activism and crowd funding technologies, like HarassMap, where anonymity is sadly the way to make a change.