"Hijab will protect me. It will guard me from the ruthless thoughts of heinous men," I wrote in my journal the night before I decided to start wearing the Islamic headscarf in 2012.
As a 16-year-old who grew up in a traditional Muslim household, the idea that modest clothing would prevent harassment was not subject to debate.
I knew the degrading "covered candy versus unwrapped candy" analogy all too well at the time, long before social media caught up on it, thanks to my school's sheikh.
But it did not take long for me to notice that sexual harassment knows no dress code.
From the motorist commenting on my posterior when it was covered by a long and loose shirt, to the cab driver casually discussing sex with me and suggesting that I come over to his place, my so-called "modesty" did not seem to stand in the way of perverts.
Almost a decade after the sheikh mentioned the candy analogy, it still makes its way to my timeline, appearing in different forms - people seem to be putting their creativity in full force to make it all the more disgusting.
While the feminist movement has made huge strides, victim-blaming is alive and well. Recent events prove it.
Last week, Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik boasted that her modest clothing prevented sexual harassment in a controversial New York Times op-ed.
Around the same time, the #MeToo online campaign called upon women to share their own stories of sexual harassment, only to have some social media users suggest that modestly-dressed women would "never" experience harassment.
But, Muslim women were quick to refute that misconception.
Stories of hijab-wearing women who have experienced sexual harassment came pouring in, proving yet again that perverts objectify women regardless of our attire.
"Indeed, all women and girls, veiled or not, are subjected to and at risk of sexual harassment, regardless of their background, what they wear, and how they present themselves," Lebanese feminist activist and campaigner Maya El Ammar told StepFeed in an email.
"Sexual harassment was never about how women look like, it's about how men look at them," she added.
To further dispute those who blame women's clothing for harassment, StepFeed has reached out to women who wear the hijab or niqab (face veil) and asked them to share their unfortunate sexual harassment experiences:
For one Egyptian, the niqab did not faze harassers on public transportation
Aliya Adel, who wears the niqab and resides in Egypt, says most of her sexual harassment experiences have occurred on public transportation, specifically what Egyptians call the "micro-bus."
"You find someone pulling himself closer to you and laying his hands on you, but you just don't comprehend what is going on at first," she says.
In one incident, a male passenger began rubbing his body against her for a while, until she decided to get off the bus, after which he followed her.
"I was doing that because you are very beautiful," she recalls him as saying.
She adds, "Note that I was wearing a niqab!"
In another incident, she fell asleep on the bus while sitting in the passenger seat up front, and woke up to find the driver touching her inappropriately.
With time, Adel learned to call out harassers then and there in the loudest voice possible, to embarrass them and prove she is not scared of them.
However, she notes that passengers rarely take action or stand up for her.
"My message to those who blame women's clothes for harassment: Look at me, I am a niqabi who covers her whole body, wears loose clothes, and maintains modesty."
She adds that her belief in the importance of modesty stems from reasons that have nothing to do with preventing harassment.
"I'm convinced with modesty for many reasons, none of which involves protecting myself from harassment because harassment has nothing to do with clothes."
These teens were sexually assaulted by their relatives ... while wearing the hijab
Sarah, an Egyptian who was born and raised in Qatar, started wearing the hijab when she was 12 and has faced harassment since then.
"When I was 14, I was sexually assaulted by an older cousin," she recalls, explaining that her family trusted her assaulter at the time, allowing him to babysit her and take her out.
"He'd catch me at moments when were alone [...] and he got many moments to be alone with us. He just kept on sexually harassing me for months despite the fact that I was a hijabi and I was moderately (modestly) dressed."
Noticing how her family and society tend to blame women for assault and disregard their claims, Sarah remained silent about her trauma for five years.
"After seeing a psychiatrist who encouraged me to speak to my mum, [I confessed to her]. My mum actually asked me what I’d done to encourage him at first, but she later apologized.
I think that was sort of an eye opener for her because it’s easy to just find yourself assimilating with a culture that always puts the responsibility on women."
She went on to say there is only one party to hold accountable for assault, "and that is the rapist/assaulter, 100 percent of the time."
"To even think about blaming the victim is, in my opinion, condoning the actions of the rapists/assaulters because it’s essentially telling them that what they did is justifiable and not fully their fault."
"Sexually harassing hijabis is a part of everyday life in Egypt, dress codes have nothing to do with the matter," says Hager Aboelkheir.
Aboelkhir was also sexually assaulted by a family member, who was 46 years old at the time, while she was only 16.
"He violently harassed me despite the fact that I was too young, that I said no and tried to push him away, that I was a hijabi who dressed modestly."
Aboelkheir notes that this is just one of the many times she has faced sexual harassment.
"What happened in that car changed her forever"
One young woman, who chose to remain anonymous, recalls that her friend was once sexually assaulted by a taxi driver in Beirut, Lebanon.
Her friend was a 17-year-old hijabi when the assault took place.
While she was riding the cab, the driver began speeding and drove to an abandoned building, where he parked the car and locked the doors.
"She was screaming for help, so he threatened to hurt and even kill her if she wouldn’t stop and do whatever he wanted her to do. He wanted sex.
She tried as hard as she could to resist and escape, but she failed and was left with no choice but to abide.
He did terrible things to her, leaving her with cuts and bruises.
After he decided he was done with her, he apologized and told her that men have 'needs.'"
The young woman says her friend was "never the same again" after the assault. The victim attempted to commit suicide several times and her boyfriend broke up with her after knowing about the assault.
"What happened in that car changed her forever. She was robbed of her innocence, her modesty, and her life, because a man at that very moment had 'needs.'"
An 11-year-old hijabi was groped ... yet society still asks what the victim was wearing
Noorhan Nader was only 11 years old when she noticed "clothes don't matter."
She was with a group of friends at the zoo in Cairo when the male tour guide groped her from behind. She was wearing the hijab at the time.
"I kept moving away but he always came to stand behind me and grope me. It was at night so no one noticed. I didn't scream."
At 13 years old, Nader faced verbal harassment while wearing an 'abaya on her way to the mosque with a friend.
"I definitely looked like a child," she recalls, but her young age did not faze street harassers.
A group of boys in a car passed by them, addressed them with explicit language, and carried on laughing.
What message would she like to send to people who blame women's clothes for assault? "Other than 'f*ck you'? There's no message really," Nader replies. "They won't understand until it happens to them or a loved one."
Men can go as low as harassing a pregnant woman in an abaya
For many women in Saudi Arabia, the mandatory conservative dress code does not seem to ward harassers off.
"Here in our society, women get harassed everywhere, even if they cover their bodies and maybe their faces," explains Melad, who says she has been harassed on several occasions while donning an ''abaya.
She believes such harassment cases prove "to all those who blame women's clothes for harassment that a sick man will hurt a woman without any [valid] reason."
For instance, Melad recalls once entering a restroom with her pregnant sister in a family park, only to be followed by three men who stood behind the restroom door, trapping the women in there for half an hour.
Saudi-Qatari Eman Abdullah has also experienced sexual harassment in the Saudi kingdom, all the while wearing an ''abaya and niqab.
She was walking in her village when a man in his fifties parked next to her, reached his hand out to pull her inside the car, and said, "If you don't come inside, I will slaughter you."
He continued to follow her when she tried to run away until she found a male relative who came to her defense.
When she returned home, her family blamed her for the incident. She recalls them as saying, "He's a well-known man, why would you accuse him of something like that? Besides, why were you out at night?"
She notes that it was only 8 pm.
"Dressing modestly did not prevent a man from disrespecting my personal space"
Ghada Seifeddine, a Masters student at the American University of Beirut, was only 16 when a stranger flashed his penis in front of her.
She recalls the man calling her over from his car as he drove by Bliss Street:
"I assumed that he needed directions, but instead, he looked at me and said in slang Arabic, 'Is this (male genitalia) too hard, or what?' while holding 'it' in his hand.
I froze in that very moment and blanked out, before I started shouting at him. That was when he sped up and disappeared."
She says she was wearing a long skirt, long-sleeved shirt, along with a headscarf, adding that she did not realize that she had faced sexual harassment until she was much older.
"Dressing modestly did not prevent a man from disrespecting my personal space, and exposing his ‘manliness’ in public. After all, our patriarchal society teaches women from a very young age to dress modestly, not laugh or talk too much out in the public realm.
What it rarely does is teach boys to have respect for themselves and the women around them.
I've had my hijab on for ten years now, and the catcalling never stopped. In other words, #MeToo."
It's high time we bid farewell to the disgusting "wrapped candy" analogy
These examples are merely a glimpse of what women face on daily basis.
It's high time we stop asking "What was she wearing?" and focus on more constructive questions, like "How can we find and punish the perpetrator?" and "How do we prevent this from happening again?".