Sir Adas' series: The invisible war against women

The invisible war,f_auto/v1617632330/1617632330.jpg

We have not done a lot of SirAdas blogging recently. The workload has taken the upper hand in our daily lives and then there was the insane war in Ukraine. History repeating again … few machos showing off with power and weapons. And as always, the victims are mostly women and children. However, there is another war which has been ongoing for centuries, namely the invisible violence against women. Occasionally we get reminded of it, either via some horrible news in the media or being confronted with it in our own lives. This time it was a regular post from Katrien Van Geystelen, the best voice coach I ever had. Typically, her posts are very cheerful, full of interesting insights and useful tips about how to best use your voice. Not this one! You can read the original post in Dutch here: For those of you not speaking Dutch, here a very short summary of Katrien’s post. She described how after attending a very inspirational evening event (as she brilliantly puts it, an event with very high “we can” content) for entrepreneurs, she and another female participant had to run scared through an underground parking being chased by 3 young men. Luckily, they managed to reach safely their cars on time. Katrien’s story is so recognisable. I’m sure almost every woman has experienced something similar at least once in her life. I had to think about the last time I experienced something like this, about 4-5 years ago. I was at an offsite with my team somewhere in Limburg. In the late afternoon of the second day, my teammates were busy with some team building activities in the gardens of the domain where we were staying. I decided to go running. It was a warm summer day and I headed towards the forest bordering the domain dressed in jogging shorts. I was just entering the forest when I heard behind me the irritating noise of a motorcycle, which obviously had some problems with its exhaust. Very characteristic! The motorcycle overtook me and the guy driving it gave me some strange feeling. While passing me he turned his head back several times to look at me. A woman knows when it doesn’t feel right! I continued running for several minutes somewhat alert and anxious. We had a walk in the forest the evening before when we arrived. Thus I knew that the black road through it was about a kilometre long and completely surrounded by very densely grown tall trees. So once inside the forest, nobody outside could see nor hear you anymore. All of a sudden I realised that something changed. What? I didn’t hear anymore the irritating noise of badly working motorcycle exhaust. I thought this was strange. He didn’t seem to drive very fast to so quickly disappear, but I could not see far enough since the road was turning. I took the turn and there some 200 meters ahead I could see the guy with the motorcycle standing still (waiting for me?) and looking towards me. It felt immediately as I needed to make the most important decision of my life. I had to admit that only for some very tiny split second I contemplated to just carry on with running. Then I just turned back sprinting faster and faster as I was hearing somewhere behind me the noise of badly working exhaust approaching … In despair, not being able to further increase my pace from exhaustion, I approached the end of the forest seeing through the trees my teammates far away fully occupied with their activities, without any awareness of my struggle. I started jumping (to be seen above the fence) and shouting as crazy. First they ignored me thinking I am just being funny, but at the end one of them run towards me from the other side of the fence. I was safe! At that moment the motorcycle passed next to me, and the guy turned back his head examining carefully my scarcely dressed in jogging shorts body … There I was, a successful professional woman, mature and assertive, leading a team of talented people often looking up to me for advice and support, transferred into a humiliated and scared child. Mother of 2 children, but not being able to even have a short running session in the countryside on my own. We had a team dinner that evening. I was still shaken by the afternoon incident, but when I tried to share my state of mind with my, predominantly male, teammates I was shocked by their indifference and disinterest. They wanted just to have fun, teasing and sharing jokes with each other. I felt as a paranoid female, overdramatising the facts. I started doubting myself, maybe it was not really dangerous. I just over-exaggerated it, I imagined it, …. Did I? No, I didn’t! I was really very lucky! However, many women have been and will be much less lucky as described by Rebecca Solnit in her essay “The longest war” published in I do not actually know how to finish my blog. I shared my story with Katrien in response to her post. This is what she wrote back to me: “Yesterday my colleague and I went to the police office to report what happened. To be honest I can write a new story about that… We were not stimulated to report it at all. It’s a shame!” It is indeed a shame! The end of the longest war, as Rebecca Solnit defined it, is unfortunately not yet in sight …

Authors: Elena Tsiporkova

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