Selma: out and about

One time, I went out with my friends. At night, on my way home, four men followed and attacked us. I was the only woman in the group, and I told them that I would call the police. As I was dialling, one of the attackers said: “you want me to hurt you?”. I answered no and he said: “Then shut up!”, pushed me on the ground and spit in my face. I got back up and yelled so loud and for such a long time that they went away and left us alone. The neighbours heard me and called the police.

Jana: bus to school

Once, I missed the bus to go to school. But I had a test that day and didn’t want to be late. So I tried to hitch a ride. A van stopped, and the driver seemed “normal”. I showed him the direction where I wanted to go with my arm, telling him where I wanted to go. He said that he needed to stop to get petrol and stopped in an empty garage. I tried to make him understand that I was in a hurry and signed « straight ahead ». He touched my breast, stuck out his tongue and showed me his penis. So I pushed back his hand and continued signing authoritatively « straight ahead, hurry up, I’ve got a test ! ». Finally, he drove me to school. I ran inside and started crying and told my story, and my test was postponed. 

Fatima: “It’s over, get out!

When I was 15, my boyfriend used to force me to have sex with him. So I discovered a trick:  every time he tried to force himself on me, I would punch my knee against his groin and pretend I didn’t do it on purpose. Usually, he would stop then. But once, as I did so, he started to hit me and wouldn’t let me leave. So I went to my father, and together we told my boyfriend, “it’s over, get out!” I felt ashamed but I had been looking for a solution for a long time already.

Khadija: in the metro

Once I was on the underground, and several young men entered the coach. They made a lot of noise, and that bothered me. I asked them to keep it down. One of them came towards me and shouted in my ear: “And who will stop me?!” He continued shouting at me and sat next to me. I punched him on the nose, and silence fell upon the coach. I opened my white cane, stood up and got off at the next station. I am sure I broke his nose.

Angélique: at the hair salon

For my volunteer work for a violence prevention project, I was invited to speak at an award ceremony. For that occasion, I had an appointment at the hairdresser’s. When I arrived at the salon, they told me to come back another day. I told them loudly and with determination: “No, I have an appointment, I am a client just like the others, even if I have a learning disability. You have to serve me. I have to go to Namur to give a speech, I’ve got obligations today.”

Valerie: at the bar

I used to have coffee in a bar with a ramp in my neighbourhood. One day, I realised that they had installed a terrace partially on the access ramp and I couldn’t pass with my wheelchair. I asked to see the manager. He apologised, but when I went back, the tables still were in my way. A friend and I called the bar and insisted on speaking with the manager. He told us that he didn’t want us at the bar. I told him that that was discrimination, and we filed a complaint. The bar then took away some terrace tables so that the ramp became accessible again.

Nadia: on the bus

I was riding in an accessible transport van. I was the only passenger and saw that the driver looked at me in a threatening way through the rearview mirror. When we arrived at my place, I took the initiative and said, “Here we are.” He said, “You are not yet on the sidewalk.” I looked straight into his eyes and answered, “No, but I know that I will be there shortly.” Then he helped me off the bus.

Mathilde: “unacceptable” spelling

All through secondary school, teachers humiliated me because of my spelling. When I went to university, one of the professors was particularly aggressive about my “unacceptable” spelling. I sent her an email: “I am sending you my course work for your seminar. I hope that my proofreaders did not miss too many mistakes. I have dysorthographia and dyslexia, which explains the mistakes in the mails I sent you. Please accept my apologies.” She answered: “It is brave to go into social sciences when you are dyslexic, but many students make a lot of spelling mistakes without being dyslexic, they are just ignorant and careless. You do well to warn me so that I don’t get angry.” Later, she congratulated me again, and it boosted my confidence.