About 3 and a half years ago, while I was in campus a guy asked me out. Well, we can’t consider it as asking me out I suppose. Since what he actually tried to do was force me into it. He was this buff guy and Hawassa was his hometown (where I want to campus). And usually, students from the town were feared by students from other parts of the country since there was this belief that it’s their hometown and if you get in trouble with them and felt safe on the campus they will give you some a** kicking when you’re out in the city. So, back to the guy, He was in another department but our class rooms were located in the same building.
So, one day I was walking out of class alone after an exam and I heard someone calling my name. I turned around and a bunch of guys were sitting with the big guy in the middle. He used his hand to tell me “come”. I rolled my eyes, a thing that has become part of my life now, and I continued walking. A few seconds later, someone grabbed my shoulders. I looked up and it was the guy. “እየጠራሁሽ አይደል እንዴ?” his voice was deep and with my short height and him being four times my size, I was a bit scared. Of course, I didn’t show it. “እንተዋወቃለን?” I replied. “እኔ አውቅሻለሁ እሱ በቂ አይመስልሽም?” he said with his one hand still on my shoulder and his other hand typing on his phone. “ቁጥርሽን ፃፊው,” he said giving me his phone and with “09” already written on it. Aha! so he was sure I would give him my number? I did my eye roll again threw his hands off my shoulder using all the force I got and walked away without saying a thing.
“እቺን ቀን እንዳትረሻት እ?” I heard him say from afar. I went to my dorm and later on told my friends what happened. Most of them freaked out when they knew it was THAT big guy. They recognized him because he was the only huge guy in our building. “You should have at least given him a wrong number.” “You should have been more polite.” “Do you understand what he meant by “እቺን ቀን እንዳትረሻት” they even told me about a guy he threw off from a balcony because well, he was big. Basically what they were trying to tell me was I messed with the wrong guy and I should be careful from then on. Yes, I freaked out and was nervous for some time after that, wouldn’t walk alone to class, tried to avoid the student cafes and going out to the city. The story got much more complicated after that, I will spare you the details. It wasn’t a very pleasing time, I tell you, in the end, I got out of it alive and unharmed, for the most part anyway.
So, how many of you girls relate to this story? Let me guess, almost all of you. The level may differ I know, but every girl has gone through this at some point in her life. Some get through it safe (if we forget about emotional trauma that is) and well some are not so lucky. Some get killed, others raped, assaulted and attacked with acid. This is a reality we all know, right?
As sad as this sounds, it is a reality that nearly all women face. There is, and always will be, a fear of something happening when alone in public, or even with an acquaintance. In most cases, the attacker is someone the victim knows. Be it a stalker who is “in love”, a former lover, or a current boyfriend or a husband.
I cannot scroll through my news feed without having an article or something pop up about a woman or child getting assaulted, whether here in Ethiopia or abroad. The more I look into the stories, the angrier I get because this should not be happening. Ever. I cannot stress this enough; it breaks my heart a little every single time.
These past few days, a story about an Ethiopian mother who got acid thrown on her face by her husband has been all over my news feed. One minute she was a woman going about her life and the next, a victim of an acid attack and is now left with more than half of her eye sight gone and not being able to talk or eat because her mouth melted. Yes, you read that right. Her skin melted. What did you expect? It was acid thrown on her face!
Yes, and this mother’s life changed forever. And the person who did this to her is still at large, leading his normal life as if nothing happened. The attack took place two months ago and he is still not in custody. I’m not sure if it had made me feel better if he was. He ruined her life anyway. But he will continue to live, eating and talking, doing the things she is no longer able to do, even if he gets locked away.
I fought with myself to write about this for days. We read a news somewhere about women being attacked or killed and it would be our topic for a week or two, we either write about it or share the news, then, it’s gone, forgotten. I have done that myself a lot. And now I’m tired.
Why the hell do I still have to write about this?
I’m really tired. I’m tired of having the same discussions and coming to the same conclusions and having people still think this isn’t an issue or as a burning of an issue as it is. I want to live in a world where people feel like they can report an assault because they know the local law enforcement will do the right thing, not just meet the lowest, and frankly inadequate requirements.
Is it too much to ask for a world that actually values the people who are part of it? Is it too much to ask for a criminal to get the punishment they deserve for ruining or ending someone’s life? Is it too much to ask for a society that doesn’t blame the victim when an assault happens? Is it too much to ask for a world where women can go on with their daily lives without being afraid of walking alone and their human rights respected, without feeling like a public item, being harassed on the road and public transportations?
I don’t think this is too much to ask for.
Why should we be living in fear? I know I am doing just that, and I also know I’m not the only one.
As a woman who usually gets out from work late and has to walk through a road which is empty and dark most of the times, my biggest fear is the possibility of getting attacked. If I am walking around alone at night I hold my keys between my fingers like weapons in case I need to throw a punch. I grasp onto my bag like it will stop anything bad from happening. Even with all these self-defense techniques, I have learned over the years, I know I can easily be overpowered. And that terrifies me.
As a society, changes need to be made and soon. There are a lot of reasons why these attacks happen but none of that matters anymore. Excuses cannot be made for gender violence. The perpetrators should be the ones to be held accountable for their actions. And they NEED TO GET PUNISHED FOR IT! And we, the people, should know about it. Whatever happened to all those guys who were found guilty of killing, raping and/or throwing acid on women? I don’t remember hearing about the punishment and it’s not talked about on the news as the attack was. We, as a society and the government, need to make some changes, that’s for sure.
But until those changes can be made and gender violence is eliminated in our society, be safe and take precautions wherever you go, and it pains me that I still have to say this, and still have to write about this issue. But that’s what I can do for now. Be safe.