An Unexpected Trip

Travel Stories: Katherine Lonsdorf went to Jordan to broaden her views. An assault by a cab driver changed her perspective forever.

04.16.10 | 11:57 AM ET

Photo courtesy of Katherine Lonsdorf

I remember the moment before the first punch. He was looking down on me, his fist clenched, his eyes angry and clouded, his arm pulled back. I was in Amman, Jordan, and the hot desert sun shone behind him to create an eerie silhouette. I screamed, eyes wide in disbelief. I don’t remember if I braced for it or not. I don’t think it would have mattered.

The rest of the punches all blend together; after the first, 10 more aren’t all that distinct. I don’t remember pain or blood or the feeling of my face breaking in three separate places. The touching, the grabbing, the clawing, the choking, the screaming: clouded and surreal.

What’s vivid is my reaction. It was the first time I have ever proven to myself that I wanted to live, that I valued my existence; the first time I have actively recognized my rights, my complex role as a woman, and the sacred ownership of my body. I took it all for granted before that day. I’ve thought about it every day since.

This all happened during my junior year of college. I’d gone abroad to challenge my views—and on the 16th day of my life in Jordan, my perspective of myself, of social roles, of the world changed forever.

American women abroad—especially in the Middle East—all seem to find themselves trapped by the same stereotype, at least to some degree: easy, promiscuous, inviting, and naïve. Nearly everywhere I went in Jordan, in Syria, in Egypt, and even in Qatar, the stares, the shouts, the touches all confirmed my unwavering place in society: as an object first, and a person second. It became clear to me that being a white, blonde woman in the Middle East seemed to mean two overarching things to the men around me: easy sex, and the possibility of a green card.

For most foreign women I knew, this was something that sank in slowly. The first weeks were too overwhelmingly exotic for many of the cultural and social norms to make themselves felt. Then began a gradual but gnawing realization that with every blatant stare, rude comment, provoking grab, or lack of acknowledgment, we were different. This wasn’t America, and we were nowhere near equal. What’s more: The majority of the population seemed to accept this, even expect it.

But my initiation was sudden, fast and painful. There was nothing subtle about it. In the second week of my life abroad, I was abducted by a taxi driver on my way home from the grocery store. It was broad daylight, in the western, trendy Abdoun neighborhood of Amman. But that didn’t matter—I didn’t know much Arabic and I was obviously foreign. I smiled too much, I laughed too loud, I talked and made eye contact.

As I got into the cab, I gave a sloppy Arabic explanation for where I was headed. He asked where I was from. “Oh, Ameeeeerica.” He replied almost theatrically. “Big,” he said in English, drawing that word out too. “America, good!” He gave a punctuated two thumbs up. “You, me, friends?” He asked, in English again, his eyes wide in the rear view mirror. I don’t remember how I responded, suddenly uncomfortable. I realized I wasn’t headed home when it was much too late.

We ended up on a dirt road on the outskirts of Amman, no houses or people in sight. Those same eyes in the rear view mirror suddenly turned cold. “Oops,” he said, with terrifying flatness. In one swift motion the driver locked the cab doors and hurdled over the front seat to pin me down in back, and my clothes were ripped and torn. I managed one call on my cell phone before he threw it to the front seat, and we were alone. I screamed, he punched. I kicked, he choked. I bit, he hit. 

It probably lasted all of 10 minutes; I blank on most of it. I just remember an intense will to live, coupled with outrage and disgust at the injustice of being so violently objectified. Ultimately, I remember the look of astonishment in his eyes when he realized I would not submit.

Between the Paris Hilton images and the Britney Spears music videos, my individuality had been lost in translation. My personal empowerment, my self-reliance had never been part of his consideration. I was not the easy American woman, the promiscuous American woman, the inviting American woman; I was the enabled, proud, and independent American woman. 

Thanks to him, I am also now a much less naïve American woman.

He stopped and I jumped from the cab. I grabbed my groceries. I demanded my phone. He offered to give me a ride home, and I almost laughed between sobs. I looked him straight in the eye as he slammed his door and barreled away. 

Three Jordanian young men, driving by soon after, found me bloody, in shock, and crying in the middle of the road. Without realizing it, they offered me the first in a series of second looks at a culture I almost dismissed. They called the police, brought me water and ice, stayed with me for an hour to wait for help. In broken English, they managed to string together one sentence: “No worry, it will be okay.” 

The next two weeks were spent between hospitals, police stations and Arabic classes. I was contacted by the American embassy, the UN, the royal family. The police were committed to finding the cab driver, and they called me every day. Nothing like this had ever happened in Jordan before, they told me—at least, not to an American. Everywhere I went, with my battered face and my known story, it seemed someone wanted to apologize, to excuse, to sympathize.

An old Bedouin man found me soon after the attack. He took one look at me, shook his head, and said sadly, “There are good men, and there are bad. In the whole world. This man, he was bad. But we, we are not all bad. You understand?”

A woman, her face covered and her head down, came up to my translator as I waited at the police station for a medical exam. She said something in Arabic. My translator turned to me and said flatly, “She wants to know if your husband is beating you too.”

Everywhere I went, people stared, and the stares were much different stares than I received before or after my face was healed. The women stared with understanding and pity, the men stared with a mix of shame and anger. I realized that I was in no way the only person caught in this story. While my pain may have been more recent, my situation more extreme, my experience was part of a continuous, daily strain on everyone—man or woman, American or Arab.

Going back to America never really crossed my mind; in fact, three days after the attack, I petitioned my home school to let me stay abroad the full year, instead of the one semester I had planned. I wanted to make sure that awful cab ride was the beginning of my time in Jordan, and not its definition. I consider that one of the best decisions I have ever made. The resulting year was one I’ll reflect upon for the rest of my life.

Still, throughout the year, my feelings about being a woman—an American woman—in Jordan only became more distressing. The catcalls, the grabs, the assumed inferiority never stopped. I learned to keep my eyes down, to smile less, to speak to men only in Arabic and only when addressed. As best as I could with my blonde hair and white skin, I tried to assimilate.

It wasn’t until about six months in that I began to realize that my assumptions about the average Jordanian woman were just as misplaced as my attacker’s perception of me. It took time, but I allowed myself to take another look. What I found in my teachers, my Jordanian classmates, and in my daily life around the city were some of the strongest women I have ever met. From filmmakers fighting harassment to journalists reporting honor killings, health care professionals teaching sexual education and female college students aspiring to study law in America, Jordanian women also proved that social norms and stereotypes did not define them.

One of the women I met in Jordan had recently made a documentary about sexual harassment in Amman. She told me that she worked hard to “humanize” men in her film, to condemn their behavior but “not who they are as people.” Since then, both while in Jordan and after I returned home, I’ve thought about what I could do to help “humanize” American women abroad. Once I was more comfortable in Amman, while other Americans were claiming Canadian citizenship, I refused to excuse my nationality. I strongly believed, and still do, that the only way Americans can shed stereotypes abroad is by traveling with pride, respect and cultural awareness—and making it less likely for Americans to be defined by satellite images and sound bites.

Coming home—first to Wisconsin and then back to school in Los Angeles—I was suddenly surrounded by things that had been taboo—short skirts, tank tops, male friends, individuality, and an expectation that I was an independent woman capable of having a job, a voice, and my own life plan. I felt like I was handed every social freedom for which those women in Jordan fought every day, but for the first time in my life I could fully appreciate them all.

They never found that cab driver, despite the hours I spent looking at lineups, mug shots and impounded taxis. With more than 10,000 registered taxi drivers in Amman, and probably thousands of others unregistered, it’s not surprising he disappeared. 

I spent a lot of time being angry about what happened. Part of me still is, but a much larger part of me has tried to transform the experience into something meaningful, if not positive. The assault forced me to open my eyes early in my time abroad, and I don’t think I would have gained as much insight otherwise. America may provide me independence, but Jordan granted me awareness.

A recent graduate of Occidental College in Los Angeles, Katherine Lonsdorf grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and also lived in Okinawa, Japan, on an exchange program in high school. An aspiring journalist, she lives in Eugene, Oregon, waiting tables and searching for her next opportunity to go abroad.

54 Comments for An Unexpected Trip

Lauren Quinn 04.16.10 | 12:18 PM ET

I really appreciate the honesty and bravery it took to write this.

brandy bell 04.16.10 | 12:23 PM ET

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react.” Congratulations, Katherine. Not only have you been through something that terrifies and often prevents people from traveling to places like Jordan, but you have benefited from it, and turned it into something truly beautiful.

No one can excuse the cab driver, and his actions are now his problem and weight to bear. Living out your life where you want, and how you want is your gift. :)

A million thanks for sharing this story, and I wish you a speedy recovery, fully knowing your scars have healed.

Mary Arulanantham 04.16.10 | 2:54 PM ET

I commend you for the courage it took to stay on and continue to grow and learn in the culture. The word that struck me in your story is “naive.” I have never travelled in the Middle East, but I have visited many spots in South Asia. My teenaged daughters scoffed when I warned them to observe some societal norms such as you describe (no eye contact, don’t speak unless spoken to—unless you are sure of whom you are talking to; they were annoyed when their male cousins warned them about what could happen. The first time one got a grabbing hand on her ass at a shopping center, or an obscene gesture aimed her way, they began to wise up. I also had the chance to educate my nephews that America is not all Baywatch. It is true that bad things can happen anywhere in the world, but you have shown that we get more out of our travels if we take off our America-colored glasses and look around with a clear understanding of what we take for granted.

Christine B.Osborne 04.16.10 | 3:09 PM ET

I found your story very interesting (and of course also shocking). But it shows me how times have changed - for the worse.

I spent more than seven years working in ALL the countries of the Middle east and the Arab States of the Gulf.  Mainly alone, or with male drivers. Only once did I have a problem which I managed to deal with - nothing like as violent as yours - but the humiliation I suffered was very hard to take. And as a result I pulled out and worked elsewhere (I am a freelance photojournalist).

But reading your own account re. attitudes in Jordan, I know for certain that it was never as bad as this for me in the 1970s-80s and I too was a tall, slim, blonde. On her own.

My firm belief is that this degeneration in male behaviour is without question the result of movies, games and web access and today I wouldn`t dream of going to some places and `exposing myself`  for the sake of a story. 

And it`s not only happening in Muslim countries where men are ready to combust—- there are increasing attacks on women travellers in places like Thailand (which used to be so gentle) and India - all due to the wretched videos and internet games, largely made or devised by men. What about this shocking new video game I read about called Rapeplay (I think that`s the name). I mean its unimaginably sick and selling…

I don`t know what to say except sorry for your frightful experience, good on you for sticking it out and let it be a warning to all women travellers—- never let your guard down and if you visit the Middle East in particular, dress modestly like their own women. Because if you don`t - eyes are watching - and you WILL BE TARGETED.

I am nearly finished a book about my own experiences working in these male dominant societies.



Ali 04.16.10 | 4:20 PM ET

As a guy who lived in amman i would like to apologies on behalf of all the guys in amman for what you have gone through, I currently work as a driver with 2 girls from New York who are doing a report about jordan for the new york times magazine, They get all what you mentioned, The stares, The dirty looks and i always fight back those guys with dirty minds.

Very well written story and it really moved me!

Ali Dahmash 04.16.10 | 4:39 PM ET

Dear Katherine,
Im a Jordanian male living in Amman and Im realy sad and disgusted to what happened to you in Amman. Actualy Im shocked that this happened to you. I do not live in Lala land or soemthing and I have worked with empowering the local ommunities in poor areas in Jordan and sometimes such violence happen but very few incidents because of poverty and social injustice. But I never heard of an incident to happen to westerners. Jordan is a very friendly, open minded country. Women relatively have rights to vote, work, to become ministers and members of Parliament. Jordanian Christians and Muslims live door to door and we dnt have any kind of discimination.
My point is that Jordan is not a bad place and I hope you don’t let one crazy evil guy change your view on Arabs and Jordanians in particular.

Al Ajanabi 04.16.10 | 5:03 PM ET

This is a terribly excellent story, told, remarkably, in a dispassionate manner that deserves real respect. I, too, lived in Amman for several years and a few more in the broader Middle East. I was there through 9/11 and the opening salvos of the war next door. They were interesting times and I walked away with a number of tremendously important experiences, as well as a remarkable wife - one of those remarkable Jordanian women you mention.

It’s appalling to know things like this occurred there, as a part of me wants there to be an appreciation for all things so often misrepresented about the Middle East. But there are things there that are terrible too. I know all too well and, as you so ably describe, there’s a broader view that impacts many. It’s a country where a woman is most always given a seat on the bus but cannot pass on citizenship to her children.

Your inclusion of the quote from the Bedu man: “There are good men, and there are bad. In the whole world. This man, he was bad. But we, we are not all bad. You understand?” is what I want to hang my heart on here because it rings so true to my experience. But there is more to your story than this.

I hope you can find a way to let the anger go - eventually. It’s certainly a process and you have a powerful right to own it and do with it as you please. But I hope it propels you, as it seems to have here, to something better for you and your view of your place in this world.

If ever you feel the need to expand upon it or your experience, I’d be glad to indulge you. I’d consider it a privilege.

samia qumri 04.16.10 | 5:11 PM ET

Dear Katherine
Thanks for sharing ur story im Jordanian girl Im shocked yet won’t deny that such things might take place n our society and anywhere else in this world…Jordan over the decades has become one of the most open minded multi-ethnic/cultural attracting place as u have noticed and got 2 witness..Women have learned to practice their right, have become most empowering figures in the society and have emerged to the surface to confirm and stress their stand of who they really are and what they are capable to do.coz honestly we have done so much and still we are to change how societ percieves us and Definitely to teach others not to ever objectify us in any way..hope this won’t discourage you from visiting again Jordan and the Middle East.

omar jordan 04.16.10 | 5:29 PM ET

As sorry as I am for this to happen to ANYONE, not just an American… Very FEW incidents like this happen here, actually she was very unlucky to run accross a jerk like that. Most women, even Americans, are safer in Jordan than in the US. My wife is American, and no one dares to do anything like that to her. Again, I am very sorry for her and God bless her, but she needs to know that this is not a common thing in Jordan and I wish she would have had a contact to call immediately, if I or any of my family knew her, that driver would not be driving around for many years to come, maybe not even walking.
In the true spirit of Jordan, we protect our people and our guests are like family to us. Let it be known, if any men in the area saw that happen, that driver would have been torn to pieces. God Bless you and be safe.
A note: In the US, there is a much higher chance for that to have happened, and it happens every hour, and the end result is susually rape and/or murder.

omar jordan 04.16.10 | 5:38 PM ET

One more thing…
Not in Jordan or anywhere in the world does a woman need a man’s permission to speak, smile, eye contact or where to go. It’s these ideas that let these few idiotic men misstreat women like that. Walk with your head high and if you get a bad look, look back with a funny face, you will see the little kittens behind the fake lion faces. There are fantastic people and families in Jordan who will find it a joy to welcome you into their homes. I have spent 18 years of my life around the world, 12 of them in the US, and my wife loves it here more than the US (she was born and raised there)...

katherine 04.16.10 | 6:43 PM ET

While I’ve been trying not to post on here, I feel compelled to thank everyone for their comments—especially from the Jordanians and those who have lived in Jordan. 

I want to clarify that Jordan will ALWAYS be a home for me, and I had so many wonderful, positive, and life-changing experiences during the year I lived there that rest outside of that cab ride.  I met amazing people throughout the middle east—men and women—and would visit Jordan again in an instant if I had the chance. 

I always speak highly of Jordan and its people, and encourage those I talk with to visit if they have the opportunity.  It is a beautiful place.  My boyfriend (an American who I met while living in Jordan as he was in the same program) and I often talk about how much we miss our life there. 

Plus, the shwarma just isn’t the same in America…


Dalin 04.16.10 | 8:45 PM ET

Fantastic story! Thank you for sharing. talk about the transformative power of travel!  I’m very proud of you, and it’s people like you that make me proud to be an American traveler!

Layali 04.16.10 | 9:12 PM ET


You’re a brave wise woman. You are a talented writer as well - I love your style. I hope your writing and sharing of the story is helping you heal the emotional scars that take way longer to heal than the physical ones.

In your story, I particularly like the part where you realize and shed your own misconceptions about Jordanian women as you reflect on and try to reverse the stereotypes that were partially behind the taxi driver’s assault. You see, the misconceptions and stereotypes go both ways and the ones who travel and fully experience other cultures are most empowered to right these wrongs.

And for Jordanians and other Arabs writing and apologizing here, maybe the taxi attack is not a common thing, but the looks, touches, grabbing, etc. happen to all women, Arabs and foreigners, and it’s a real shame! What is it going to take for all those men to stop thinking of women as objects and start respecting them as human beings?

Thanks, Katherine, and best of luck!

Julia Ross 04.16.10 | 9:43 PM ET

Katherine- thanks for telling your story. And glad you stayed the year. 04.17.10 | 2:14 AM ET

Dear Katherine,
Good day to you and salamat!

Really sorry to hear what happened to you.

I`m from Jordan, and ashamed of this incident.

I hope these words can do you at least some comfort although they are merely words.

Sorry again,


Ali Dahmash 04.17.10 | 2:16 AM ET

Hi Katherine,
Thanks for pointing out about your experiene in Jordan, I also would like to see you write about the positive things you saw and experienced in Jordan and the Middle East.

As for Layali comment, I would like to add that there is some blame that falls on women who agree to promote themselves as Sex objects in Music Video clips, commericals,  Hollywood movies, TC, etc… I think we are all to be blamed for this since a country like America has become the society of “Sex sells more”. Im 100% agianst degrading of women.


Judy C. 04.17.10 | 4:02 AM ET

Wonderfully written life experience, thank you.  I one day hope to visit Jordan and was at first shocked to read the beginning.  I am no longer young and have found that there are good and bad people all over the world, it is a human condition, with culture playing a part.  After finishing this article, I still want to travel there and meet the wonderful people of Jordan that I have heard so much about.  In Virginia where I am from, we had an incident where a young college age woman from Eastern Europe had come to earn money during the summer and was assaulted.  Imagine her impression of Americans to have this happen, but the community did rally and we helped her with her hospital bills and a place to stay while she recovered.  Thank you again for such a moving article.

Angela 04.17.10 | 4:47 AM ET

What happened to you, Katherine, is very sad, and what is even sadder is that events like this happen all over the world, although not all of them receive proper publicity. Much of the cinema/TV industry, unfortunately, gives the very wrong idea that pornography in Western countries is normal routine, maybe we should start blaming them louder.

kinzi 04.17.10 | 5:01 AM ET

Katherine, so well said. I remember your story well, and it altered the way I use taxis in Jordan. I now ask to see the driver’s license, and write down the taxi company each time before I get into a cab. The driver inevitably asks why, and I tell him your story.

Your description of life for a foreign woman was spot-on. I love Jordan, but it is a bitter-sweet love.

If you ever come back to Jordan, look me up!

T.S. 04.17.10 | 8:49 AM ET

American expat male living here in Jordan. Amman is without doubt the safest city I’ve lived in, in America and in the world. Kathrine’s story is very saddening. Like she describes, unwanted advances and attention are unfortunately very familiar for female Westerners here, but violence is EXTREMELY rare. Thank you for sharing your story.  An American female traveling shouldn’t be judged or held responsible for people’s warped perception of American society from pop culture & the news anymore than Arabs should be judged that way while visiting the United States. Both are wrong, but unfortunately that’s how most people know about cultures besides their own. The objectification of women in music videos really should have nothing to do with anyone’s experience.

Naser 04.17.10 | 10:33 AM ET

Hey Kathrine,
I really have mixed feelings here, I feel I should apologize for what happened to you here - I’m a Jordanian who lives here - yet at the same time I don’t think you wanna hear “I’m sorry” anymore, either way I’m sorry that you’ve been through that, but I really admire the way you dealt with it and how you turned it to something meaningful to say the least. :)
You’re always welcome to come back, and its because of open minded people like you the image of Americans is also changing.
be well.

Anonymous 04.17.10 | 12:37 PM ET

Katherine, you weren’t the first American woman to be assaulted in Jordan.  I know this for a fact, because I was, too, eight weeks into what was to be a 12-week stay.  The difference is that my attacker was from a prominent family, and so I wasn’t offered the concerns of the embassy or the U.N. or the royal family.  Wasta prevailed and, in the process, I was thrown under the bus.

I reacted much as you did, though.  Instead of fleeing to the comforts of home, I stayed.  For years.  I wanted to overwrite those God-awful memories and return home with a better view of Jordan and Jordanians.  I will never forget the kind face of the emergency room nurse at the hospital that treated me.  She just kept holding my hand, sort of patting it, and telling me in halting English that not everyone in Jordan is bad, but I was unlucky to meet people who were.  Similarly, I will always have a special fondness for the single, elderly Jordanian woman who took me under her wing and into her heart, wiped my tears, and gave me insights into the family behind my horror.

I wish you the best in your healing process.

hazi 04.17.10 | 3:17 PM ET

First of all.. let me applaud the writer for her fantastic narrative language….you have a very promsing talent. Second… i found so many contrandictions in your story and far from being accepted by me. You say that the whole thing lasted 10 minutes then you say that the driver took you in dirt road on the outskirts of Amman, no houses or people in sight. and the you say that after he realized that you wouldnt submit he got out of the cab and the offered you a drive home????!!!!!! doesnt that sound weird????
then you said “he pinned me down in back, and my clothes were ripped and torn. I managed one call on my cell phone before he threw it to the front seat, and we were alone. I screamed, he punched. I kicked, he choked. I bit, he hit,” how did you manage to make a phone call??? and why didnt you get out of the car and run away? then and after he left you say “three Jordanian young men, driving by soon after, found me bloody, in shock, and crying in the middle of the road. Without realizing it, they offered me the first in a series of second looks at a culture I almost dismissed. They called the police, brought me water and ice, stayed with me for an hour to wait for help. In broken English, they managed to string together one sentence: “No worry, it will be okay”. if they were driving then why didnt you go to the police with them instead of them waiting for more than an hour with u in the middle of no where???? am sorry dear by your story is not convincing…..

Anna 04.17.10 | 9:01 PM ET

Hazi, that is pretty disgusting that you’d imply this was made up.  I am not sure I’d want to travel to a Muslim country.  I’m sure the people are wonderful if you get to know them, but as an American woman I just wouldn’t want to be treated so badly while out in public just because of what I look like or where I am from.  Being the object of discrimination is never fun.  I was assaulted on a Russian train once so I think it can happen anywhere when you are traveling alone and a vulnerable young woman.  I managed to fight the man off and get some help from other passengers, but it was also an eye-opening experience for me and I became more reserved and afraid to talk to strangers when traveling.  I think American girls do have this stereotype of being promiscuous, unfortunately.

Douglas Arnold 04.17.10 | 11:56 PM ET

My first visit to the Philippines changed my naive American viewpoint of the world. The poverty and perspective of the Filipino challenged so much of what I thought and believed. The vast majority are wonderful, warm people—but there were several that threatened, coerced and intimidated. It is true of most cultures and peoples.  While my experience was not traumatic and physically harrowing as was yours, I was also changed.  Good writing of a bad experience. The best to you.

Donald 04.18.10 | 2:20 AM ET

Hazi, are you seriously implying that she should have calmly asked for a ride to the police station after the attempted rape? The girl was almost killed in the back seat of a car in a foreign country, and you find fault in the lack of clarity in her decision making?
It’s almost not worth responding to you because of how obviously outrageous it is that you think you know what being in that situation is like and how a person ought to react, but your comment can’t stand without reproach. It’s callous and absurd.

OMAR JORDAN 04.18.10 | 2:34 AM ET

There is no need for insults, this is not a trial she is on… she shared an experience that happened to her. As a Jordanian who lived in the US for many years, I know that things like this happen every where, and yes it happens sometimes in Jordan. By the way, to make it clear to many people who have no clue what a Jordanian is… we are a country of many backgrounds, many colors, and NO division between Christians and Muslims. I say this as a Christian and out of living with our Muslim brothers hand in hand all of our lives and have never been treated different. So please, before someone comments about being treated different as a Christian, know Jordan and the true people of Jordan first.
As with the whole world, poverty is a disease that usually leads to missconceptions of people, mainly due to ignorance or just simply lack of knowledge. She unfortunatly came by that dog of a person, but rest assured, most people here would have protected her and treated her like family.

kinzi 04.18.10 | 3:13 AM ET

Hazi, attitudes like yours are part of the problem.
3aiyb 3alayk

Naji 04.18.10 | 6:13 AM ET

sorry for ur bad experiece here in jordan kathrene, Im a 28 year jordanian guy, who loves his country. I dont say its crime free, but Im sure its one of the safest countries out there. AN incidnet like this can happen all over the world especially in the US. so lets not stereotype arabs & arab contries by this unfortunate incident. I have sisters & relatives who lives here & I rather live here than any place else in the world cause I feel its much safer than any other place out there.

Jansait 04.18.10 | 8:29 AM ET

Sorry to hear you had a bad experience.. and as one of them told you.. good is everywhere and bad is everywhere.. women are tortured and being taken for granted everywhere on this earth.. there isn’t one country that does not have those sick ppl who try to degrade women in every possible way, unfortunately! :\ that doesnt mean it should go without punishment.. at the same time.. there are some good men who really appreciate and respect women,, in Jordan, USA and everywhere..

God bless

Sara 04.18.10 | 4:20 PM ET

It is always upsetting to hear of any woman having to face such an incident regardless of her nationality or the country in which it all took place. But as a Jordanian it is certainly more upsetting to me that a guest of this country had to face this in Amman, a city where I grew up but thankfully neither me nor any of my foreign friends who visit me frequently and use taxis ever had a bad experience of this nature which comforts me that it was an isolated incident and not the norm.  As you mentioned in your mail, the Jordanians are kind and helpful people.  The regular guys who came to your rescue are the ones who represent the majority and not the twisted cab driver who had the misconception about american girls that they would be happy to oblige.  Again this can happen to anyone anywhere but sorry it happended to you here in Amman.

Lama 04.18.10 | 5:06 PM ET

Hazi’s attitude is part of the problem, but it is nonetheless quite instructive to the uninitiated who may not be aware that discrediting the account and the victim are common responses to such crimes.  If that doesn’t work, then an all-out attack on character and credibility is waged.  And those who wage such attacks seldom know the actual facts or have seen the physical evidence that typically exists.  In other words, complete ignorance does not deter them.  Sometimes the motive is pure tribalism or careerism.

It’s a shame the taxi driver was never identified and held to account.  And it’s also surprising, given the small population of Jordan and the extent to which people are interconnected.  If there’s any silver lining to this, though, it means you’ve been spared any backlash from the driver’s family and tribe.  But that is a very small consolation.

Tim Patterson 04.19.10 | 12:19 AM ET

Stunning piece.  I may be spending the summer in Jordan, and this feature gave me lots of food for thought.  Thanks for sharing your experience.  I really admire your courage.

OMAR JORDAN 04.19.10 | 12:52 AM ET

Just to say about your silver lining comment, if the driver was identified and caught, she will need not to worry about any backlash (if you really know Jordan), his own family would have taken care of his beatdown… Honor goes both ways Jordan. Just like they do not expect to let anyone harm their own, they will not their own harm someone, especially a woman.

Come to Jordan, enjoy the beautiful country, Jerash, Petra, Dead Sea, Aqaba, just to mention a few… and know for a fact, that you are safer here than many other countries, even probably your home town. Please carry a cell phone with you (like every one should do), hang around nicer areas, get to know locals and you will always want to come back.


Cecille Soriano 04.19.10 | 8:12 AM ET

Dear katherine ,

What an extraordinary and splendid Story back there. I just want to say that you are such a brave woman and I hope that this will inspire other women as well.

Great job and I appreciate your bravery. 04.19.10 | 8:51 AM ET

It took courage to write this post, thank you for sharing.  Women don’t know how good they have it in America.  Your story will help others, especially women be prepared if they choose to visit the Middle East.  It’s a different world and culture.  Not every man acts like the cab driver, but some still do. 

I agree that it’s best to stay in safer areas or be with a tour guide at all times.  Learn as much as you can before you go and this includes speaking the language.  Take classes before and or during your trip.  Being able to speak and understand the language is helpful.

Lama 04.19.10 | 1:19 PM ET

@ Omar, that wasn’t the case in one of the crimes I’m deeply familiar with.  The tribe piled on the victim and made her life an even greater misery.

flip 04.19.10 | 2:23 PM ET

good to know that you’re doing ok now…

you’re a brave young woman and an open minded one as well… wishing you more travels in the future :-)

OMAR JORDAN 04.19.10 | 2:28 PM ET

There is no country in the world that is 100% free of crime… not what I am trying to say, but for some on here telling everyone that you have to know Arabic, stay in a few areas and tribal law rules here, that is VERRY far fetched!
The tribal issues usually happen in small towns that tourists and most Jordanians don’t go to, and the few incidents in Amman, not too ago, a girl was almost raped by a tribal son, when her family told his family, he was lashed and abandond by his own father… tribal laws sometimes are the most effective in such cases, their honor is more respected and kept when they do NOT allow their men to commit such acts bringing shame on them.
For best information, Jordanian law is always supreme, and the punishment for rape is EXTREME, many times punishable by death.

Akila 04.19.10 | 5:04 PM ET

Katherine, This is a wonderful piece, incredibly touching and braving.  Thank you for writing it.

Michael Lynch 04.20.10 | 10:49 AM ET

Powerful writing and should be a “must read” for exchange students male and female, everywhere.

Anna 04.20.10 | 8:36 PM ET

What an incredible story; thank you for reminding us to be careful and aware when we travel. It took such bravery to stay there and, even more, to take away such poignant lessons.

May 04.21.10 | 4:01 AM ET

I am a Jordanian female educated in America, and am now a proud American citizen.  I had lived in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar.  It is very dissappointing that the middle eastern men have not moved into the 21st century with their way of thinking.  Katherine, your experience is so true of how they view females, whether you are a western woman or one of their own.  The way they think of women is so low.  They sometimes behave well in public, but behind closed doors they mis-treat and abuse their wives.  This is for most middle eastern men, not just Jordanian men.  I would like to believe their are some decent mid-est men out there….I just haven’t met one yet.  Growing up in this culture I realize they really are weak men, but have to take it out on the women to prove their manhood.  When a woman leader speaks up, they do away with her and have their so called “honor killings”.  This stems from whom is leading them.  Look at who they look to for their leader….he mistreated young girls and hurt them.  If they would look to a better and more wholesome leader then these men can began to change their ways.  This will be the only way for the middle eastern society to transform…...change whom they reverence.

OMAR JORDAN 04.21.10 | 4:50 AM ET

May… you really do not sound Jordanian what so ever… actually, you are making me laugh!!
I have lived in the US for MANY years, and just moved back to Jordan with my American wife, and I know MANY people around… Jordanian men (i do not know where you lived in Jordan) are known for their kindness and love of family. You NEVER lived in Jordan, so please do not say things you do not know of… you lived in Saudi… so I understand… they treat women like sheep, but before you talk about Jordan and how we are, come and live here, then so insults like that. All of my friends, myself, and most of my family members that are married, and great husbands who spoil their wives, take them to the best places, trips overseas, worship them and are great fathers… tell me how many you know like that in the US? Just a thought?... and I am not going to be like you and say that all American dads are not good, actually I am proud of the new generation, not so much the 30 somethings….

RosiC 04.23.10 | 1:01 PM ET

Dear Katherine:
Thank you for your brutally honest account of what happened to you in Amman, Jordan.
While I found it shocking, I also realized that I was just lucky not to have had a similar
experience. My heart goes out to you for the pain this incident caused in your life. But it
sounds as if you are now a much stronger person a.e. woman.
When I traveled to Jordan more than 20 years ago, I traveled with a large group. I represented
a travel agency that focused on recruiting Christians to visit Israel by way of Jordan. I had a
wonderful experience in Amman. In fact, I often commented on how men seemed to “respect”
me and the other women.  So your story really opened my eyes to the real dangers that American women face when alone in some Middle Eastern countries. So while I will return someday to Jordan, I will keep in mind what happened to you.
Katherine, May God bless you and help you continue to heal.

Lizzy 04.23.10 | 5:28 PM ET

Thank you so much for sharing this - as a woman who lived in Cairo for a year and was also assaulted, I am so impressed with how you have dealt with this situation.  I recognize myself in your description of how you internalized the social taboos by keeping your head down and more or less avoiding men whenever possible.  It is hard to remember who you are when everyone around you perceives you differently, so I am really proud you have been able to do that.
Good luck on all your future adventures and thank you again for sharing.

Jenn Winter 04.24.10 | 2:20 PM ET

Katherine, thank you for voicing so eloquently what so many female travelers have felt.  I am passing your powerful words on, I feel that all American women who travel need to hear your story.

Jordanian 04.30.10 | 1:38 AM ET

When my friend read ur article and emailed it to me, she wrote this as well blow the link :

“her article really pissed me off, the way she portrayed jordan, muslim and arab men is disgusting, even her words are soooo stereo-typical, if i didnt live here i would think jordan is a desert filled with animalistic and barbaric men going around raping and insulting women!!

if what she said truly happened to her, then thats too bad, and i wouldnt wish it on anyone…but she shouldnt be talking about rape and kidnaping and the downgrading of women when she is coming from a country that is known for all of the above.

the thought that some people read this and are clouded with a 1000 misconceptions drives me crazy! ”

Cbaty 05.14.10 | 3:27 PM ET

The fundamental rights of women are still unfinished business both nationwide and globally. However, your strength and courage are beyond admirable. Your actions after the attack as well as your decision to remain in the country shows the true strength of what it means to be a woman.

Grizzly Bear Mom 05.14.10 | 5:59 PM ET

I don’t think that all New Yorkers/Christians/Men/Whites are rapists just because some of them are, any more than I think all Jordanians are rapists because of this story.  The setting of the story is incidental.

Hazi’ s comments are disgusting though.

axel g 05.15.10 | 3:56 PM ET

Traveling is a wonderful way to learn about life but at the same time it may put you at risk.

I find common sense a great travel companion… 

Thanks for sharing your experiences from Jordan!

Hayden Dane 05.16.10 | 4:03 AM ET

You are mature beyond your years, Katherine. Thank you for sharing so candidly such a personal experience. Journalism will surely benefit from your ability to find perspective amid chaos and terror.

Mary 05.16.10 | 9:26 AM ET

This was one of the most compelling and courageous stories I have ever read.  Your decision to stay in Jordan, combat stereotypes, and work to “humanize” both Jordanians and Americans is beautiful.  Thank you for writing.

Helford River 05.16.10 | 12:48 PM ET

Courage for understanding, Conviction to understanding and being Committed to understanding are some of the many qualities you have. Never loose sight of that.

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