Here's how I was treated after I reported my sexual assault in Morocco.

Trigger warning: This discusses surviving sexual assault while traveling.

A year ago, I was shattered — a complete ghost of the confident independent woman I had grown to be.

I had just spent an amazing few weeks exploring Morocco, which is one of my favorite countries. I felt welcomed everywhere I went. Yes, there were inappropriate stares, comments, and sometimes very quick touches that I wished hadn't happened, but nothing beyond the usual harassment I receive as a female traveler.


I was in Ouarzazate exploring the kasbah when I was attacked by a sexual predator. A kasbah is essentially a labyrinth of narrow hallways, staircases, and tiny rooms. A man approached me and asked me to take his photo, and I obliged. Then he grabbed me to take a selfie. I tried to object, but his hand was all the way around my waist. He pulled me closer and nuzzled my neck and reached his hand under my shirt. I shoved him off of me and started shouting at him not to touch me again.

I ran into the next room — a dead end — and he followed me and was masturbating. He pushed me back against the wall as he continued to touch himself. I froze for what felt like an eternity then started to kick him. He ejaculated everywhere, on my jeans and the floor, and then ran.

It took me a few seconds to process what had just happened. Then I started screaming. I couldn't move. I didn't know where he had gone. I didn't know if he was waiting for me. What if he was angry that I had kicked him and now he really wanted to physically hurt me? Two young men ran into the room, coming closer to me as I cried, shaking hysterically. I screamed at them, assuming they were friends with my assailant. I thought they were there for their turn.

About 10 men gathered around me, one of whom spoke enough English to get me to sit down and breathe.

I finally calmed down enough to explain what had just happened. When he told the rest of the men, they were immediately furious. These men were here to help me, not hurt me.

They wanted to call the police, and I let them, with little hope that anything would come of it. At least 15 minutes had passed, and while the city isn’t large, it certainly isn’t tiny. I thought my attacker would be impossible to find.

But the police were furious. I gave them a picture of the perpetrator — he'd been in the background of a selfie I had taken before the attack — and they sent the photo around to other officers and sped off as quickly as they had arrived.

Still shaken, I needed a distraction while we waited for the police to return, so the guide who spoke English offered to take me on a tour of the kasbah. We had been walking around for about 20 minutes when the other men ran towards us, shouting. My guide, Moha, translated for me: "The cops caught the asshole."

We went to the police station, where I was surprised by the treatment that I received.

Though I did have to sit through about four hours of telling and translating my story, over and over, the Moroccan police treated me with dignity and respect. The picture was all the proof I needed. The police never asked me why I was alone, never questioned what I was wearing, and never suggested that I should cover my head and hair. They didn’t doubt what had happened to me. I realize I may have be given special treatment because I am a foreigner, but I was still surprised at the care and respect I received in that situation.

The man who attacked me was arrested and put in jail. I was told he would be tried the next day in front of a judge and sentenced. I don't know what the ruling was, but I had been told that there is an official sex offender list in Morocco and that he would be on it for the rest of his life. This was the first time in my life I've swiftly received justice when reporting sexual harassment.

I have been attacked in other places, but I've never received respect and dignity in the aftermath like I did in Morocco.

I have been followed by men who were masturbating in Los Angeles and New York City. I have been harassed around the world, assaulted in Spain, molested in Florida, and raped in Kansas. In the last few years, I have opened up about the times I've been sexually abused and have found that nearly every woman I know has been sexually harassed in some way.

But in the United States and in Spain, friends and authorities alike shrugged off the things I endured. In Morocco, all of the men who helped me were exceptionally kind. The police believed me, and they made it a priority to track down my assailant. They didn't shrug me off or brush me aside.

Now, I overcome sexual abuse by sharing my experiences with other travelers.

After Morocco, I was physically OK but mentally broken. The attack had me seriously reconsidering the solo travel lifestyle I created for myself. My confidence was completely shattered. I felt so violated. I was traumatized and incredibly vulnerable. I tried to feel lucky that I wasn’t hurt.

What got me through the pain and helped me heal was talking to strangers online — other female travelers who understood the fear, pain, frustration, and violation that solo female travel can entail. I prevailed. I regained my power. I refused to continue to feel defeated. I hadn't come this far to only go this far.

Now, I've begun trying to reroute my story, using my pain as fuel to be a part of a global movement for women's rights. I speak with men so they can learn how difficult travel is for women and start to speak up. I speak with women so we feel less alone in the vicious violations that so many of us have been through.

I don't know if a day will ever come where I and women like me will be able to stop wondering if our whole lives will be plagued by the threat of men sexually harassing and abusing us. What I do know is that I will keep speaking up, connecting with others, and working to bring about a better and safer world. I will continue to send love to each and every person who relates to my story. We're in this together.

This piece originally appeared on Miss Filatelista and is reprinted here with permission.

Most Shared

A new Harriet Tubman statue sculpted by Emmy and Academy award-winner Wesley Wofford has been revealed, and its symbolism is moving to say the least.

Harriet Tubman was the best known "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, a network of safe houses that helped thousands of enslaved black Americans make their way to freedom in the north in the early-to-mid 1800s. Tubman herself escaped slavery in 1849, then kept returning to the Underground Railroad, risking her life to help lead others to freedom. She worked as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, and after the war dedicated her life to helping formerly enslaved people try to escape poverty.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Kenneth Goldsmith / Twitter

The Hillary Clinton email scandal was a major right-wing talking point during the 2016 election that aimed to create an air of suspicion around the candidate.

The media played right into it turning Clinton — one of the most qualified candidates to ever run for the office — appear just as unworthy of the presidency as Trump, a vulgar, politically-inexperienced pathological liar.

The controversy surrounded Clinton's use of a private email account in which over 30,000 emails were sent during her time as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. An FBI interrogation found there were 110 confidential emails sent from her private account.

Clinton was never criminally charged, however FBI director James Comey said she was "extremely careless."

Keep Reading Show less
Democracy

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
True
Walgreens