To test the reactions of passersby, an actress walked in the streets of Beirut pretending to be a young woman who had been raped moments before. The results of this social experiment, which was carried out by the women’s rights NGO Abaad, are difficult to watch. Passersby criticise the way the actress is dressed, and even call her a “whore”.

The video was filmed by a hidden camera. It was published on the NGO’s Facebook page on November 5. In it, a young woman wearing a T-Shirt and a skirt walks through the streets at nightfall, crying and disoriented.

Passers-by stop and ask her what’s going on. But once they start talking, some of the reactions are far from compassionate. To see what happened, watch the video, which is subtitled in English:

“Not one person offered to try to find the rapist or call the police”

Danielle Hoayek is a lawyer and a member of the NGO Abaad.

The actress was not alone – several other people working with us stood near the passersby in order to capture their conversations with hidden microphones. We discreetly filmed from windows and terraces all around.

We made this video because we wanted to see how victims of sexual violence were perceived by society. We expected that there might be some victim-blaming, but not to this point – it was shocking! One woman even advises her to stay quiet, telling her, “You’re embarrassing yourself more. Don’t let anyone know.” All the passersby’s reactions are real. And we haven’t edited the video to leave out positive reactions.  

People treated this young woman as if she was at fault, and tried to make her feel guilty and ashamed. It’s as if this woman had been raped twice – a physical rape committed by her attacker, and a psychological rape committed by society, which rejected and insulted her. Not one person offered to try to find the rapist or call the police.

“On average, only 13 victims per month dare to press charges, due to the shame brought on by victim-blaming”

Through this video, we hope to change the way society views victims of sexual violence. But we’re also calling on the authorities to strengthen rape laws.

Article 503 of the penal code says that rapists can be punished by five years in jail. We would like this to be lengthened by several years. The goal is not for rapists to spend the rest of their lives in prison, but for the punishment to be severe enough to be dissuasive.

According to a survey carried out by our NGO, 33 percent of women have been sexually attacked. In 49 percent of cases, the attack is committed by a member of their family. And on average, only 13 victims per month dare to press charges, due to the shame brought on by victim-blaming.

Lebanon is one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East. These past few years, NGOs’ efforts have led to several victories for women’s rights. In August 2017, notably, the Lebanese parliament repealed article 522 of the penal code, which allowed rapists to evade punishment if they married their accusers.