Actress Lydia Forson has come out to narrate her ordeal while shooting a movie at a location in Cantonments. Below is her timeline of events that lead to the sad encounter.
I don’t even know where to start this piece from.
How do I explain that I woke up excited about my day unaware of the very dangerous encounter I was to have.
How do I write in a language that won’t be judged, misinterpreted or dismissed.
How do I speak on my assault without someone tone checking me, questioning the validity of my claim and trying to make it my fault.
Because that’s the never ending cycle women in this country go through whenever the subject of any type of abuse is brought up.
Who we are becomes the centre of the conversation and NOT what happened to us.
How we speak on the subject will determine if we deserve sympathy or not, we have to hold back the anger we feel, speak in a more acceptable tone and basically focus more on how people receive what we’re saying instead of the pain of what we went through.
That’s why I’ve been staring at this blank page for a few hours now.
Today it happened to me.
I was psychically assaulted by a national security official ( or so he claimed).
I’ve heard the stories of the “boys boys” who’ve become oh so powerful because they’re on the pay roll of one “Big Man” (most times a politician in power).
They usually don’t have any real title and no specialities other than the endorsement from their “meal ticket”; but that’s enough to make them feel they can get away with just about anything, it’s enough for them to assault people at the flagstaff house, storm into a court room and assault a judge etc.
But I’ll be damn if I become just another statistic, a number they get to put into their little black book, belch over cheap bottles of beer and laugh about how they “shook her”.
See, I know my rights, and not only that, I’m not afraid to stand my ground.
This knowledge is the ONLY reason why I made it out today; it’s the only reason why only my arm hurts and not the rest of my body.
Filming in Ghana has its challenges especially when it comes to locations, but our determination is what leads us to make do with what we have.
Most filmmakers being aware of this usually try to get the right permits to avoid any confusion; but even at that we’re sometimes at the mercy of passers by, polices and others in authority.
Today we chose a spot often used in movie production( mostly by NAFTI students as it is by their hostel).
A few minutes into the shoot a car drives up and a man with a walkie talkie jumps out and tells us we’re not permitted to be there.
Our director insists that we are, he together with the crew try to reason with the man but he refuses and the director decides that we should just leave to avoid what seemed like a situation that was escalating.
I observed all of this from a distance and noticed the man was fixated on the female crew member who happened to be the one driving. As she turned to leave he started to verbally assault her, why? Because she had “dared” challenge his claim that we weren’t allowed there; he continued to hurl insults at her until I heard him say finally “ you think you are somebody”.
That triggered me.
It’s something I’ve heard more times than I can count, especially when it’s in a confrontation with a man. I’m either “ashawo”, “too known”, or an “unmarried small girl”.
It’s usually comes from a place of disdain, anger and genuine surprise that a woman, who they believe they’re superior to, would even “dare”, stand up to their authority.
I’ve had too many men say to me, “My wife would never speak to me like that”, which is true in most cases, because the patriarchy that exist in our society does give a lot of men this false sense of superiority.
And by his utterances I could tell things were about to get ugly, so I walked up to him and said he didn’t need to go that far, especially since we were already leaving.
He immediately turned on me, like a poked bear ready to devour its prey.
Now before I continue you should know we were just about 4 women there with about 10 men.
Men who were shouting, calling him out and insisting that he was in the wrong, even when one rushed up to his face he didn’t as much as raise a hand to them.
But the minute I stepped in, I wasn’t allowed into the “boys only zone”, I was an intruder and my presence alone was a threat to the size of his balls.
Without hesitation he turned on me and started making threats; I took out my phone and decided to record his actions but that only aggravated him because it meant I had the upper hand, it meant he couldn’t lie about what happened later.
He quickly lunged at me and tried to hit the phone out of my hand, in the process he punched my arm and continued to come for me.
Save for the crew, this man was ready to beat me to a pulp and he said as much.
When I told him he didn’t have the right to, he responded with a smirk on his face “I can beat you if I want, my authority gives me that right and no one can do anything about it”.
Yes, you read right.
But he wasn’t alone, a policeman was there with him and although he didn’t join in the attack did very little to the man.
He said he was only there to “observe” and not participate; when asked if his “observation” meant to watch a civilian being assaulted he asked for “proof” of assault.( he’s the one in the blue,clearly in the middle of it all)
When their supervisor showed up, much to the dismay of everyone there ( and there were several witnesses) the policeman said the officer didn’t verbally or physically assault any of us.
At that moment, watching as these men threw their weight about, I knew that this wasn’t about who was right or wrong, it wasn’t about the law it was all about POWER.
Today’s incident got me to reflect on two things; the never ending abuse women face and the abuse of power in this country.
Unfortunately what happened today didn’t surprise me; if anything as a woman in a country where we’re often treated as second class citizens I expect to have confrontations like this, expect to be treated poorly by men, I expect them to try to exert their authority over me and I especially expect them to feel they can get away with it; which they do most often than not do.
But the knowledge of this doesn’t quite prepare you for the encounter; you’re filled with rage, confusion and a lot of fear, even though you try to mask it with bravery.
As you stand your ground and refuse to be abused; you’re well aware that you’re playing with fire, you’re aware that the louder and stronger you seem, the angrier they become and the more they want to hurt you, you’re aware that your strength challenges their authority and bruises their ego; and there’s nothing as dangerous as a man’s bruised ego.
But what’s worse is you’re afraid to share your story because you can’t trust that people will get it, you can’t trust that they won’t blame you, you can’t trust that they won’t justify it.
So you’re conflicted.
On the abuse of power;
Several assault cases in this country go unreported or the perpetrators go unpunished; depending on who you know you can get away with almost anything in this country.
And if you’re connected to anyone in power, become invisible, not even God can touch you.
It’s why this man was bold enough to say he could beat me, it’s why the police officer stood by and did nothing, it’s why making calls to people in “high places” won’t do much unless you’re connected to “power”.
And we have more than enough examples of cases like this to go by.
People have sat on radio, tv and other platforms to make threats and still got a seat at the table of authority.
Sadly, when our leaders do ever speak against this( usually after public outcry), their actions hardly ever reflect their words because they’re serving two masters; the people that put them in power and the citizens they’re supposed to govern.
So they’re tough on their reprimand but not tough enough to alienate them from their party faithfuls.
I got lucky, not everyone will and much the like unfortunate instances of killings of civilians by SARS officials in nigeria, if not careful this could creep into Ghana.
Watch the video and judge for yourself.
None of us ever expect to be in these kind of situations, but it’s important to stay ready for them because you never know. This got me through, and I hope you don’t ever need these tips.
1. Know your rights.
2. Know that knowing your rights might mean nothing in certain circumstances.
3. Immediately start to record a situation you believe is about escalate; it’s probably the only thing that’s going to save you from further harm.
4. Share to your social media platforms, friends and family just Incase something happens to you.