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.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather
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While most 10-year-olds are playing Minecraft, riding bikes, or watching YouTube videos, Justin Sather is intent on saving the planet. And it all started with a frog blanket when he was a baby.

"He carried it everywhere," Justin's mom tells us. "He had frog everything, even a frog-themed birthday party."

In kindergarten, Justin learned that frogs are an indicator species – animals, plants, or microorganisms used to monitor drastic changes in our environment. With nearly one-third of frog species on the verge of extinction due to pollution, pesticides, contaminated water, and habitat destruction, Justin realized that his little amphibian friends had something important to say.

"The frogs are telling us the planet needs our help," says Justin.

While it was his love of frogs that led him to understand how important the species are to our ecosystem, it wasn't until he read the children's book What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada that Justin-the-activist was born.

Inspired by the book and with his mother's help, he set out on a mission to raise funds for frog habitats by selling toy frogs in his Los Angeles neighborhood. But it was his frog art which incorporated scientific facts that caught people's attention. Justin's message spread from neighbor to neighbor and through social media; so much so that he was able to raise $2,000 for the non-profit Save The Frogs.

And while many kids might have their 8th birthday party at a laser tag center or a waterslide park, Justin invited his friends to the Ballona wetlands ecological preserve to pick invasive weeds and discuss the harms of plastic pollution.

Justin's determination to save the frogs and help the planet got a massive boost when he met legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Photo courtesy of Justin Sather

At one of her Roots and Shoots youth initiative events, Dr. Goodall was so impressed with Justin's enthusiasm for helping frogs, she challenged the young activist to take it one step further and focus on plastic pollution as well. Justin accepted her challenge and soon after was featured in an issue of Bravery Magazine dedicated to Jane Goodall.

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