Sexually molested by his brother - as his father molested his sisters - Ahmed shares his shocking story of harrowing domestic sexual abuse, and his journey towards healing.
*Victims' names have been changed to protect their privacy.
by Ahmed Mansour
I wouldn’t consider myself a member of a normal, functioning family,” says Ahmed, who chooses to keep his last name confidential. Ahmed, who is 25 years old and married, says: “I come from a family with parents who don’t know how to love or show compassion in any way. Being born and raised in Saudi Arabia, all my parents cared about was making enough money to make their stay in that country worthwhile, or at least that was my mom’s job. We are a big family; I’m the youngest of five siblings: Youmna, my eldest sister, Sandy, Shady, and Lamis.*
I was around six years old when I started to realize what was taking place. It was also around that time when I walked in on my father having sex with our maid. Try imagining a six-year-old boy seeing his father sleeping with the maid. Subconsciously, I knew that I shouldn’t tell anyone and just pretend that everything is all right. But little did I know the toll it would take on me. Little by little I started to realize that there was something wrong with my father.
Youmna, my eldest sister, was the closest one to my heart. I used to think that she was an angel sent from heaven just for me. She told me that I got really attached to her when I was a baby, especially when she used to comfort me by carrying me when I cried. She couldn’t take the crying, she said, when no one would do anything to try and calm me down. She is a sweetheart, but she is the one who was abused the most by my father, and I was always her savior. Whenever my dad went to her room to try and do whatever he does, she used to call out for me in that certain tone, and no matter where I was, and no matter what I was doing, I used to drop everything immediately and go to rescue her. Every time my dad felt that I was coming, he used to let her go. This scenario went on and on for ten years. Eventually, it caught up with my other two sisters.
I felt like I was the guardian of my sisters. I felt like if I wasn’t present, for even an hour, he’d probably go as far as to rape them, and sometimes I thought he might even murder them. I felt responsible for my sisters, but yet there was nothing that I could do to protect them since this was so much bigger than me. I was only a little kid.
I never knew how far he got with my sisters. But I do know is they probably never gave him a chance to do what he wanted to do. I know they never felt safe in their own home, the person we all thought should be our protector was really nothing but a monster.
Being a member of a dysfunctional family means that we never felt safe enough to go tell our mother what was going on. We were all afraid that it might backfire and that our mother would blame us for what our dad was doing. We never had the courage to go and tell her. Also, our parents were not the kind of people to dedicate time to their children. They never took us out like all my friends’ parents did. For me, those family outings were something I’ve never experienced. When I was about ten, I would have done anything to go out and see the streets and just enjoy my time. My brother, however, did do all that.
I used to share a room with my brother, Shady. It was a small room, so my parents decided that instead of having two separate beds, we were to share a queen-size bed. He was always known as rebellious. He used to steal my dad’s car in the middle of the night and go cruising. He used to take me with him, but only if I did things with him before we left. But even if I refused, he’d force me to do it anyways. He is eight years older than I am. I used to cry as he molested me. I hated everything about it, to the extent that I hated going to bed and I cried myself to it every day. When I woke up, I would pretend that everything was normal, that nothing had happened the night before and that nothing would happen at the end of the day.
I couldn’t tell anyone about my brother for two reasons. The first reason is that my father was a mess anyways and I always had this feeling that they were both in it together. And the second reason is that he was my brother, and I always felt that if I told on him, he’d get into more trouble than he could bear.
The abuse only stopped when my brother and Lamis travelled to Egypt for university, and both Youmna and Sandy got married. So it was only me and my father and mother. Of course, my father kept on bringing women home, but by then he didn’t bother to hide it as well as he used to. He already knew that I knew and that I did nothing about it. But I did do a lot about it, I prayed to God that he would rid me of this monster that only brought burden, hatred, and fear into my life.
I’m scarred for life that’s for sure, but now I am married. I have my own home, and I cannot look at all that has happened to me except in one way; that now I know how to take care of my own family when I have one. I know what kind of parent I will be. I believe everything happens for a reason, but I’m yet to fathom why all of this happened to me.”
At the end of his shocking account, Ahmed gave Egypt Today permission to talk to his psychiatrist Azziz Ezz, who has a PhD in domestic sexual violence, about how such traumatic experiences can become catalysts for positive change.
“There are many cases here in Egypt like Ahmed’s," says Ezz. “I come across new cases almost weekly. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed publicly so that we can put an end to this but the problem is that most people do not want to go public with their stories because of the implications it would have on their personal lives, especially in a culture like Egypt’s.” Ezz adds that while events in Ahmed’s life have affected him negatively, they also gave him a lot of power and strengthened his will to improve his own personal life.
“Every negative experience in one’s life has a positive side to it," he says. "And that should be the victims main focus.”
Domestic sexual harassment has long been an issue not only in Egypt but the entire Middle East. Amnesty International cites an increase in domestic sexual harassment cases reported to the authorities in the MENA region from 30,000 to 220,000 cases, and experts estimate that only 63% of the actual incidents that occur are reported.
Further studies show that children between the ages of five and 14 are often the victims of domestic sexual harassment because they do not fully understand the fact that these actions are impermissible and usually do not have the courage to share the issues with an adult.
A 2015 study by the Egyptian Demographic and Health Survey noted that 73% of children in Egyptian households have faced some kind of domestic violence. Among those, 36% have witnessed domestic sexual abuse. The fathers in the households were reported twice as often as brothers to be the abusers, the study found.
The issue of domestic sexual abuse is part of a larger and broader sexual harassment problem plaguing Egypt. According to Amnesty International, more than 99 percent of women and girls in Egypt interviewed for a survey published by UN Women in 2013 reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment.
While there have been some convictions since a new law making sexual harassment a crime punishable by a minimum of one year in prison was introduced in 2015, the majority of women who have been harassed are still waiting for justice.
“After many years of research and studies in hospitals and rehab centers, I found that the phenomenon of sexual harassment is more of a physiological disease that has infested not only the youth of our country but men of all ages, rather than an attitude," says Mohamed Nazeef, a psychiatrist and professor at Cairo University. "I consider it to be a contagious disease that might pass on to the victims: A person who was domestically sexually abused at a young age might become a sexual abuser when they come of age.”