R.E.S.P.E.C.T – for all the women who fight

A long long time ago a girl came from a village so small that no one even knew where it was on the map. She decided to leave the village and move to the city to study. Her parents were worried of course about all the dangers of the city, but let her go as they wanted her to get a good education. Making use of her new freedom, the first night the girl decided to walk around and visit a music festival that was held in the city. Another girl that lived in her building joined her and they were both very excited and proud to be walking around and enjoying the music. When they walked back a man came from the opposite direction. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and showed his big chest – it was a hot summer’s night actually – but he also couldn’t walk straight and his face was bleeding. The girls decided to walk past him as fast as they could.

And then, all of a sudden a fist flew at her face. The man had hit her straight in her face, leaving her with a ringing sound in her ear (and the day after a purplish eye). He continued to walk.

The girl was totally confused, she sat down on a small staircase in front of a glass door. She started to cry. Her first night in the city and she immediately got in trouble. Her parents would want her to come back to the unknown village and would never let her study on her own. The other girl tried to console her and was very angry. A man opened the door and asked ‘what is wrong girls?’ She looked up and realised the man was a policeman. The door was from the police station. She couldn’t believe it – she had been hit by a total stranger in front of the police station! They quickly explained what happened and the policeman immediately started looking for the man that had hit her. He couldn’t be far. They got him quickly and she could identify him easily. The blood was still dripping over his face. She got a closer look, his nose busted.

After pressing charges the policeman told her, the perpetrator was known to be violent. He had done this before and after getting in a fight in a bar and getting kicked out, the girl was simply the first thing he could release his anger on. Just ‘bad luck’. He would spend a night at the police station and later on he was convicted to a week in jail.

They offered to take her home, but her friend said they would walk home quickly now. What were the odds of this happening again? The girl called her brother when she got home, she told him the story. Her brother listened and was angry. He also said: ‘That was just really bad luck, don’t call mom and dad, they will come and get you immediately’. She never did.

You’ve probably guessed it, the girl was me. And for a long time I thought it was ‘just bad luck’ too. Being at the wrong place at the wrong time. But, after reading through another report on violence against women something connected in my brain. I didn’t think about this incident in years, but somehow I wondered. What if I had been a man, 6 feet tall, just as muscular and buffed up? Would he have hit me then? Or if I had walked there with my brother instead of another girl? Or if he had been a woman and I had been a man? Would the same thing have happened? I don’t think so. For some reason it had to do with the fact that I was a girl, small, an easy target, that most likely wouldn’t punch back. And that’s probably the bottom line, in the end the perpetrator knows or is quite certain the woman won’t punch back, because he’s simply stronger and thinks he can get away with it as he had no real respect for her.

Violence against women comes in so many forms (just looking at women being punched up is a really really narrow definition, and perpetrators can even be other women, but the majority will remain men) and at one point or another you are exposed to it. It wasn’t in anyway near major or invasive in my case. I figured I had been introduced to city life in a rather harsh way. I took karate classes and later on Thai-boxing to build up some ‘self-defense’ confidence. I discovered that my right high kick was and is excellent and for the rest to be honest, never thought about it much more. Interestingly enough I do remember every detail of that evening, it’s like watching a short movie about yourself in your head. But, fortunately I was sucked into student life, which required a lot more positive attention from me.

The point is, whether my experience really was a case of a man being violent against me because I was a woman or just some random street incident, sometimes my stomach cringes when reading another report. I simply can’t take the ways of violence presented to me in dry sentences with an even drier statistic overview attached to it. Because each statistic in the end is a woman. A woman or a girl, somebody you might care for, or maybe it was you as well. I even forget that sometimes. Respect for all that never forget, either because they are suffering, have survived or simply take action to care through their work, volunteering or activism

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