Egypt struggles to stop violence against women

In 2013, a U.N. report found 99.3% of Egyptian women were sexually harassed

(CNN) – Activists in Egypt say new laws, and wider awareness, are helping to curb sexual harassment and violence against women. Still though, they acknowledge there is much more work to be done before many women can feel safe.

Survivors say what you’re witnessing is the scariest moment of their lives. When a mob of men isolates and sexually assaults a woman. Many, left naked, violated and broken. The physical and psychological scares last for years.

In 2013 CNN interviewed one victim Shorouk El Attar.

“I couldn’t see anything but a bunch of people surrounding me everywhere, every direction. Harassing me everywhere,” said Attar in the interview.

The attacks occurred around Egypt’s tumultuous uprisings.

The general rule is during large protests or celebrations in Tahrir Square, at sunset women, especially foreign women, should start heading home or face the likelihood of being sexually assaulted by a mob.

Reports of similar incidents have surfaced in parts of Europe, in particular Germany. New Year’s Eve in Cologne ended in hundreds of women reporting sexual assault.

For some Egyptian activists, that night in Cologne bring back painful memories from Tahrir Square.

“What is common in the two things is using women’s bodies as a battlefield to achieve political ends,” said Dalia Abd ElHameed, Egypt Initiative for Personal Rights.

In Egypt, some tried to use the attacks to tarnish the revolution’s image.

While in Germany, the violence in Cologne is heightening concerns over immigration.

“The most important thing in these assaults is the safety and the well-being of the survivors,” said ElHameed.

This mob mentality manifests in daily street harassment. In 2013, a U.N. report found 99.3 percent of Egyptian women were sexually harassed. Since then, the country has made progress.

The ministry of interior created a special women’s unit. The government passed laws with strong penalties, especially for mob assaults. Activists raise awareness through the media.

“The number of women who got sexually harassed in the street everyday are very large. The difference in the street is the level of awareness of people,” said Hadeer Mamdouh, Women’s Rights Campaigner, HarassMap.

No new official numbers exist since the U.N. report. Mob assaults appear to have decreased for now. Many attribute this to a new law that placed stricter rules around protesting. Years later Sharouk still thinks of that day.

“Whenever someone harasses me and I feel like is getting closer to touch my body, it reminds me of what happened. I feel strong enough to look at them in the face and to sometimes curse them,” said Attar.

She encourages victims to speak out and to never feel ashamed.

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