Your only responsibility is to speak up! by Oumaima, Morocco

It was noon and I was leaving the hospital after our morning rounds to head towards a meeting I was really excited about at the Norwegian embassy. I walked out and took the first cab I found, I was too excited and nervous to notice that the driver already had 2 clients in the back of the car, so I had to sit next to him. He took them to their destination and once he dropped them off, he started asking me about my age, what I was studying, my origins.. I tried to keep my answers as short as possible and to answer politely. Suddenly, I noticed he was taking the wrong way and when I told him that this is not the closest way to my destination , he said, “I want to get to know you better, we can have lunch before I take you to the embassy, you can take us to a fancy restaurant if you want, you are a doctor after all, you must be rich.”
I was scared, to say the least, and I failed to hear the rest of what he was saying. I couldn’t ask him to stop, we were next to a very dangerous place and staying there alone was scarier than staying with this car driver. I kept praying we will get somewhere safer, or somewhere more crowded with people so I can ask him to stop… When I finally did, he simply and coldly refused and put his right hand on my leg, I removed it he went mad and took my hand instead. He refused to let it go. I tried to pull it off but he was much stronger than I was. Luckily, a police car showed up… I started yelling and asking him to let me go. He did, and I paid him ( he also overcharged me ).
When I finally managed to break free, I got out, memorized his cab’s number ( yes I fortunately did!), and froze for several minutes. I didn’t know what to do next. I didn’t know how to feel about this whole thing. I headed to that supposedly happy meeting shattered, disgusted and extremely sad. The following days were extremely hard, I was crying at night, and I couldn’t even look at my hands. I washed them every 10 minutes, and I was very ashamed of myself. I was ashamed because I didn’t punch him in the face, ashamed because I didn’t run to that police car to tell them about what happened, I was so angry because I didn’t hold him accountable, and I didn’t stand up for myself.
I felt that I gave up on my feminist principles. But what was I doing? Doesn’t this sound familiar? Am I really the same person who was actively advocating against victim blaming ? And here I was, blaming myself for something that wasn’t my fault. I was, like so many others, blaming a woman, the victim, for something only the assaulter should be blamed for and ashamed of. I told my mother about this, she was so scared and mad, and her response was: “you have to press charges, maybe he will lose his job, maybe his family will starve, but that’s not your fault! It’s his, maybe his kids will suffer but it’s better to have their father suspended from work than having him put in jail”. She was right, and I am so thankful we had this conversation.
I was lucky enough things didn’t get worse, I was lucky enough that police car showed up. But maybe, maybe he did that to other women, maybe he did worse than that, and maybe he will rape a helpless 12-year-old girl unable to defend herself if I don’t try to stop him right now and if I choose not to speak up. Two days later, I went to the police office, gave them his car’s number and told them about his crime. They were so nice and helpful. Reporting him was very liberating, and will surely save many of his future victims. Pressing charges against him is one of the rare things that I am very very proud of.
To all the women out there, I know you have already gone through difficult experiences like this one, maybe harder experiences. Don’t feel bad or ashamed of it. I know the whole culture justifies rape and assault and always blames the victim, and it’s so toxic that we end up believing it’s true. But remember that your ONLY responsibility is to speak up and to stand up for yourselves and for other women.

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