As I write this blog, it has been seven months since three males attacked me on my Saturday morning run. The whole ordeal lasted less than five minutes and I was unconscious for two of those minutes. I will never forget the feeling I had when I saw from the corner of my left eye, one of the three males turning around just after I had jogged past them. It was a feeling of both resignation and panic. I tried fighting and screaming but one had me in a choke hold whilst the second was punching my stomach and the third was searching for whatever valuables that could have been on me on that fateful morning. I am mostly thankful that they did not have weapons and that they did not rape me. The five minute ordeal took place in a well-lit place alongside a road. The chokehold made me unconscious and I don’t know when they ran off or what scared them off. I was not carrying any valuables except a bottle of water, a juice box, a banana and the pedometer on my hip.
I remember the episode like it happened yesterday. I remember the trepidation, smells, lights, my feet hanging off the ground as I was lifted up by the neck and even the last thoughts I had of my husband and son. I thought I was going to die and all that crap I heard that your whole life flashes before your eyes when you think you are dying did not happen to me. I just felt very sorry for my son and husband (guess they are my whole life). When I regained consciousness, I was lying on my side on the grass by the side of the road and I woke up kicking, screaming and lashing out but no avail as my attackers were long gone. So I arose, looked around to see if there was anyone close and ran the two minutes home; let myself in and called my husband who was in another country and a friend to come and keep me company since I was so terrified of being in my own home and assumed they had followed me back.
Then of course the paranoia hit. I felt very vulnerable and petrified all the time for about five months after the incident. I acted it, too. For example when walking, I would look back every minute or so to see if anyone is following me and I never used to do that before. I could run 15km without looking back. I didn’t completely stop running however because I didn’t want them to take that away from me and even if I was running in a crowded street and saw a man, two men or three men coming my way, I’d cross the street because they were all suspects . I was scared of every male I encountered. Sometimes even women looked dubious to me. A couple of friends invited me for runs in the hills, in the park and I still can’t go to this day. One day I tried walking through the arboretum and my heartbeat was so elevated I thought I would pass out from the terror I underwent.
I know this will scar me for a while but my experience is nothing compared to what other women and children go through in this world: Gang rape, beatings, acid burns, all forms of violence.
I was talking to some girl guides in Rwanda and one of them said: “We are human first and women second.” I reminisced about the impression of being, not human when I was attacked. I kept reflecting that this is how we treat chickens or goats when we slaughter them for meat before I passed out from the choke hold. There’s no dialogue, no commiseration, just total indifference, we just go on about our business and vamoose – which is exactly what these assailants did.
Reactions from people I have informed of this ordeal have been diverse. However, one stood out – which was mainly to blame me for being out at that time. This is the strangest thing. People expect the victim to be at fault. This is the same way as in rape cases, domestic violence cases all over the world. Investigators, friends, parents, husbands ask, “What did you do to exact such punishment? Did you make him angry, how were you dressed?”
To this I say, we need to live in world where a person wo/man is free to decide to go out to take a walk/run at midnight without feeling insecure. We need to live in a world where women are free to move without feeling endangered. We need to take back our streets, our homes, our world from would-be attackers. We are part of this world and we aren’t going anywhere! Why should we cower in fear as if this planet was only meant for men to live on? Why should we continue to live as second class citizens who can’t dress, talk, walk, behave the way we want to, go where we want to and when we want to? Why should we accept to be treated like animals?
Instead of blaming victims we should stop the silence!!
Punish the attackers, rapists, wife-beaters! We are accomplices in attacks on girls and women if we continue like this: Punishing gang-rapists with cutting grass.
Instead, we must make the world perilous for aggressors. We need to teach our sons to love and respect girls and women; we need to show our sons to respect women because charity begins at home. We need to roar from rooftops for violence against women to end. We need to scream out from the bottom to the top of our lungs for the judiciary, the police, the governments to outlaw and penalize severely any form of violence towards women.
They all must be held accountable for each of the one in three women who are victims of violence in their lives on this planet. This is not just a statistic and it’s not a women only fight because this is about our grandmothers, mothers, our aunts, our sisters, our daughters, our neighbors, wives, me. We need to teach our daughters to demand their rights, to fight back, demand justice and express themselves freely, challenge the norm and insist to grow up free from violence.
So I hope, a lot of activism is being planned by both women and men during the “16 Days of Activism” starting November 25 until December 10, against gender-based violence, to protect the majority of people on this beautiful planet: WOMEN.
Some examples of activism I support and am engaged in: