BEIRUT: Small portable alarms named in memory of a young British Embassy worker raped and murdered in Lebanon in 2017 have been distributed on Beirut Corniche as part of a campaign to protect women and girls from violence.
Known as Becky’s Button, the lightweight devices were handed out by the Becky’s Button Association on Saturday, with volunteers explaining how the alarms can offer protection from sexual harassment or assault.
When activated, the alarm emits an ear-piercing signal that can frighten off attackers and alert anyone nearby, offering wearers a few seconds in which to escape.
We all know what happened to Becky. The news was shocking at the time and women in Lebanon are still living with the repercussions.
Shaima Masri, University professor
The alarm is named after Rebecca Dykes, the 30-year-old British Embassy worker raped and strangled to death in 2017 by a taxi driver.
Dykes’ killer, Tariq Samir Huweisheh, was sentenced to death by a criminal court in Mount Lebanon.
On Saturday, volunteers wearing T-shirts bearing the words “Press, Run and Report” explained the benefits of the device and how it could protect women exposed to any kind of danger.
A British Embassy official joined the volunteers as the alarms were handed out to women passers-by. Female officers and members of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces were also present.
Becky’s Button can be placed under clothing or attached to a bag.
Becky’s mother, Jane, who has been donating the alarm to vulnerable women, believes her daughter’s life might have been saved if she had such a device.
The alarm is provided to women after an interview at the Ahla Fawda NGO, a community organization.
“Stocks are currently limited, but they can be requested via social media,” an association activist said.
Women and girls walking or jogging on the corniche In the early morning stopped in front of the volunteers’ tent, which had been set up in front of a large photograph of Dykes.
“We all know what happened to Becky. The news was shocking at the time and women in Lebanon are still living with the repercussions,” Shaima Masri, a university professor in finance accounting, told Arab News.
“Harassment of women on the street is on the rise in light of the current chaos,” she said.
Standing in front of the tent, 11-year-old Fadl listened to an explanation from activists about the importance of the alarm.
He asked to be registered with his mother because he wanted her to have the device.
Fadl told Arab News that he also wanted to get the button because he had previously been harassed in the school playground by two high school boys.
“I ran away and screamed, and the teacher came and the two boys were expelled,” he said.
“Weeks ago, someone in the street tried to chase me, and he was looking right and left while he was chasing me.
“I was afraid and entered a shop. There, I asked the shopkeeper to call my brother, who came and took me from the place. This button will definitely make me feel safe.”
A security source told Arab News that police officers patrolled the Beirut Corniche on bicycles to help protect girls and women from harassment.
One officer, who declined to be named, said: “Women come to us complaining that young men are chasing them all the time, directing shameful words at them, or even trying to touch them. We do our job in protecting them after deterring harassers.”
He added: “But the problem is that women refuse to file a complaint against their harasser because they ‘don’t have time to spend it in the station’ — as they say — or because ‘the incident has passed and the matter is over.’”
He said that Lebanon has passed a sexual harassment law that considers any form of unwanted touching to be harassment and a crime.
“Complaining against harassers is a deterrent so that others will not persist and will understand that there is a punishment now,” he said.