An Egyptian woman rescued a little girl from a man who was sexually assaulting her after spotting the ongoing incident on her building’s CCTV feed. The woman saw the man bring the child into a corner of the stairwell and put his hands under her clothes, running his hands over her body. The suspect was identified after this footage was posted online. Activists have been speaking out against what they say is Egypt’s rape culture.
The video footage that Eugénie Osama posted online is barely a minute long, but it has been like a bomb going off on social media. It shows a man wearing glasses, a suit and a tie walking into the hallway of a building. He seems to be insisting that someone off-screen come with him. A little girl dressed in red joins him and then the man directs her towards a corner of the stairwell. Once there, he starts running his hands over her private parts as she struggles.
Eugénie Osama, who works in a lab, saw the incident as it was happening on the building’s CCTV footage. She rushed out of her lab to confront the man, allowing the child to escape. From his gestures, it is clear that the man is denying the accusations, but Osama responds by pointing her finger at the camera. The man then quickly leaves the building.
Because of the shocking nature of the video, our team will only publish screengrabs.
The man brings the little girl behind a wall in the stairwell. He touches her buttocks, then stands behind her, gripping her in his arms. That’s when she starts to struggle. © Social media
“Disgusting, despicable animal!” Osama wrote as the caption to this video, which is an excerpt from the original surveillance footage. She said on Facebook that the platform later took down the video due to its content.
After spotting the horrific incident as it happened on CCTV, Osama rushed into the hallway and confronted the attacker. © Social media
In Egypt, the video garnered more than 600,000 views on Twitter. People responded with outrage. Osama said she had published the video “to expose this animal so that he would be punished for what he did to the little girl [...]”.
“When I confronted him and showed him the camera, he fled. We need to find him and denounce him!” she said in her original post on Facebook.
The incident took place in a building on Liberty square in El Maadi, an expensive suburb located to the south of Cairo. Because the man’s face is visible in the video, social media users were able to identify him and turn him into the police. After calls from millions of social media users and a national organisation for the protection of children, the Cairo public prosecutor’s office opened an investigation. The perpetrator of the attack was sentenced to seven years in prison on March 10.
Cairo police examined and verified additional CCTV footage— this time from the street in front of the building— which seemed to show that the assault was premeditated. The man can be seen speaking to the little girl, then they go together towards the building
In interviews with Egyptian media outlets, Osama said that she saw the incident taking place as she was sitting at her desk in the reception area of a laboratory. She said that she and a colleague followed the man, before losing sight of him in the traffic.
Additional CCTV footage shows the child fleeing. You can then see the attacker fleeing after his confrontation with Osama and her colleague.
The victim, who is seven years old, has been getting counselling since the assault, provided by the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood. She sold tissues in the street and helped her father, who works as a caretaker in one of the buildings in this chic suburb.
“It’s critical to document sexual assaults: without that, no one believes us, and even with that…”
Mennah is a journalism student is Cairo and a women’s rights activist. She said that filming and documentation is extremely important in cases of sexual assault.
Most of the time, if not all of the time, in cases of sexual assault, people question the victim’s version of events. She is never believed. Even when the attacker is caught in the act, as in this example, he always denies it and is often believed instead of the victim.
Even after [Osama] published the video and explained what had happened, some people defended the attacker and judged her. A large segment of society doesn’t believe that an attacker should be punished or pinpointed or have his identity revealed. They say that what he did isn’t too serious, even when there is visual proof. And I think it is a very small segment of the population that will believe a victim if there is no video at all.
We ask women to provide proof, but it is incredibly rare. A woman might not have the reflex to film what is happening. She might be afraid and might not know what to do when faced with the attacker. That’s what gives attackers a feeling of power over someone else’s body: impunity.
The Egyptian press only started very recently covering sexual abuse openly. In general, we prefer to hide sexual abuse and not think about the cause. We spend even less time on the solutions. It seems like the easiest solution for many families whose children have been abused remains burying their heads in the sand to avoid “tarnishing someone’s reputation”.
This little girl is a street child. She might have seen the man as a fatherly figure and trusted him. Left to themselves, street children need both money and kindness from passersby and this man took advantage of that.
The child probably didn’t understand what the man was doing to her before she started calling out for help [Editor’s note: according to reports from several Egyptian media outlets]. But because this incident has blown up in the media and on social media, the child will realise as she grows what happened to her and God only knows what consequences that might have on her.
More than 100 sexual assaults on minors have been reported in the past two months.
In early March, a young woman in Alexandria spoke out against her father, who didn’t want her to report that she had been a victim of a sexual assault because he was “ashamed”.
The National Council of Childhood and Motherhood has a phone line where complaints can be filed and victims can access counselling. The same Council reported that they had received 105 reports of abuse in January and February, nine percent of which took place in a family setting.