Ever since I moved to Beirut, I have been trying to convince Western friends that it’s a relatively safe place, at least as much as anywhere else. I pointed out that cities like Chicago have more crime and that nobody would think it was dangerous if I went to Mexico for spring break, even though Mexico is actually statistically very dangerous. I waxed elegant about how I felt no fear walking the streets of Beirut at 3 or 4 in the morning; how I never worried that I would be mugged or assaulted.


Men in Beirut participate in the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Fundraiser on April 26, 2015. (Image via Facebook)

But then my female flat-mate was assaulted. It was after midnight and she was walking home to our Hamra-area apartment, having been out for drinks with some friends. As she neared the building, a scooter approached from behind, which of course doesn’t typically raise any alarms in Beirut. This time it was different. The driver began whistling and catcalling and as he passed, he grabbed my friend’s ass.

Understandably disturbed and a little afraid, she cursed at him and ran for the door. Getting inside she felt momentarily at ease until she heard him parking and heading for the building. We didn’t have a doormen or a lock on the exterior door. Giving up on using the elevator she ran towards the stairs as the asshole followed her into the building, slowly removing his belt and sneering.

Understandably terrified now, she screamed at him, telling him she would cut him and then began running up the stairs to our second floor apartment. She heard him begin to follow and when she reached the door she began ringing the doorbell, hoping either I or our other flat-mate would open. Neither of us was home. Panicking when nobody came to her rescue, she managed to get her keys into the lock and get inside before the pervert made it up the stairs.

When she told me the story the next day, I was shocked and beyond disgusted. We established a specific doorbell signal together, in case a situation like this ever arose in the future. I learned after that, that Beirut isn’t as safe a place as I thought. I learned that the world isn’t the same place for women as it is for men. I know the concept is basic, but before that I didn’t see it clearly.

Since then I have noticed the way women sometimes look over their shoulders when I’m walking behind them on the sidewalk or the way they seem to think twice before entering an elevator with me or other men. I’ve seen the unsure looks in some women’s eyes as I enter a building soon after them and it just makes me incredibly angry that the reality of our world is this way.

This past weekend, Lebanon had the opportunity to walk A Mile in Her Shoes. The event was meant to draw attention to violence against women in a fun and humorous way. But let's remember to be aware of the struggles women face on a daily basis, not just during special events like these. Let's always remember to walk a mile in her shoes.

Past Events

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes Beirut ... Sports and Recreational Activities
 

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