He grabs her by the arm. He looks her straight in the eye. He moves his lips forward towards hers. He forces a kiss.
She makes it understood that she isn’t interested. He continues anyway. Another very clear refusal. He can’t accept her rejection, no matter how forceful and obvious it is.
A last try, and she lets go a tender sigh.
She has finally been conquered.
Since 1990 I’ve been a street-based counsellor, a social worker. I work with marginalized youth, street gangs, etc. The street belongs to men.
A woman can only get involved in what’s going on if she’s someone’s girlfriend. If there’s a breakup, she loses her rights.
Any “business meeting” takes place between men. Women are only “things” to these men. They can’t offer their opinions. They can’t have a point of view. In any event, their status is only temporary. A bit like a disposable toy you play with for a while, then toss aside after use.
My wife Danielle also does social work. It took us six months to be let into their “business meetings.” At the beginning, she wasn’t allowed to participate, she could only be there in silence. By working at it a bit more, she won the right to speak up. She was the first woman allowed to speak up and offer her point of view in their decision-making committees.
The tone changed during the decade of the 2000s. A woman gained the right to say no; to defend herself; to phone the police in order to be protected; and most of all, to be taken seriously. We stopped talking about couples’ fights and started talking about conjugal violence. There were a few false starts at first, male-female relationships went in a whole new direction. Today, the French language media talks of “féminicides” and not of “conjugal dramas.”
The “Me Too” movement’s wave of denunciations has lifted up another shield to protect victims of sexual assault and harassment. The message is clear: zero tolerance for violence against women. We must end the silence and denounce horrible, brutal acts. The best way to help a potential victim is to stand up before the worst happens. And to raise your voice to say: that’s enough!
I regret promising not to act when I was a teenager. Just like intervening with a suicidal person, I can’t keep secrets if I want to help. Because violence concerns everyone.
And altogether, we have to stand up and say NO, once and for all.