Sunday , June 20 2021

Karate Champion Takes New Enemy In France, DRC: Sexual Violence



Women's marches last weekend in cities all over the world show just how much attention has attracted the #MeToo movement to the issue of sexual abuse. Experts, however, say a long way ahead. An EU report says that one out of every 20 women in Europe has been raped and many still do not report sexual assaults.

In France, however, the triple world champion of karate teaches women to heal through their sports – both at home and in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Lawrence Fischer faces some tough opponents, but nothing like what he is doing today. It is often invisible and difficult to beat: the trauma of sexual violence and the violence suffered by women in her class.

Everyone here has a different story. Mamoussa Soumare is raped by a relative in native Mali at the age of 12.

Sumare says her family forced her to marry her rapist two years later and she was cut out. She had one child after another and her husband was beating her. Finally, last year she managed to escape to France with the help of a nurse living here.

Sumare landed in La Maison de Femmes or in the Women's Home, a special center for women victims of violence outside of Paris.

"Some of them are victims of domestic violence, others of incest, in fact all kinds of violence, and we try to help them according to their story," said Dr. Gada Hatem, a gynecologist and founder of The Women's Home. Many of the women who come here are African immigrants. But many French women shared their experience.

"There are many inquiries (surveys) that show that about seven out of ten women are victims of violence, so we are all interested," she said.

The center offers medical and psychological treatment – but also therapeutic classes like the one taught by former triple world champion Karate Laurence Fischer.

"Karate is a way to connect with yourself, because of the trauma there is some disunity … because of the suffering, they can not connect," Fisher said.

Many women in the Fischer class were victims of violence, Saint-Denis, France, January 25, 2019 (L. Bryant / VOA)

Many women in the Fischer class were victims of violence, Saint-Denis, France, January 25, 2019 (L. Bryant / VOA)

Fischer began to teach women's karate after retiring from competition more than a decade ago. From 2014 it goes every year to a country where sexual violence is so widespread that it is called the capital of rape the world – the Democratic Republic of Congo. He works with the Panci Foundation in the eastern part of the DRC, founded by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dennis Mukvege. Two years ago she launched a non-governmental organization called "Fight for Dignity". Karate not only helps women to heal, she says, but also to regain her self-esteem.

"It's unbelievable how he can influence their relationship with their children, their friend, how to find a job, relationships with others because we are not just a brain, we are a body," said Fisher.

She started teaching karate at the Women's Home a year ago.

"I think karate is a very good sport for these women, which gives them better self-esteem," says Dr. Hatem. "And Lawrence has a special job around the vagina and the clitoris and all the sexual attacks, and it is very important for our patients to work on their own bodies through this trauma."

Lawrence Fischer helps the student to breathe properly, Saint-Denis, France, January 25, 2019 (L. Bryant / VOA)

Lawrence Fischer helps the student to breathe properly, Saint-Denis, France, January 25, 2019 (L. Bryant / VOA)

Fischer and her students gather for tea after each hour. It's time to get to know each other and make friends. Thirty-year-old Aisata Giakite has been visiting the Women's Home for over a year.

She says that when you are sexually assaulted, you feel weak and battered. But with karate you really want to live. She says Fischer is extraordinary – it helps women get out of pain and returns their appetite for life.

Fischer plans to return to the DRC, not just to work with Pancakes. She wants to help some of the women who graduate there to start karate courses in their villages to help other women … fight for dignity.


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