Today’s story has almost nothing to do with the image above. It is even barely related with cars. Today, 25th of November, is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The numbers for Romania about this phenomenon are sinister: 1 out of 4 women were physically or sexually harassed by their partner at least once, but too few cases are reporter to the police. More informations and the list of organizations which offer help in this matter are available on www.violentaimpotrivafemeilor.ro. The toll-free number is 0800 500 333 – available non-stop.

I just lived through a very strange experience … I am not sure how exactly to share this with you without jeopardising the protagonists, and that includes me, so I will only stick to the essential …

‘Wait! Please, get me out of here!’ I saw someone running towards my car – a pretty girl, maybe a little ‘overdone’, thin, with a clutch squeezed in her hands. She was running towards me with small steps, nothing like those of an athlete. I just put the car into first gear, so the doors weren’t locked yet. Next thing I know, she climbed right next to me, riding shotgun, sitting straight onto my backpack, scared. ‘You’re a lifesaver. He wants to kill me. Come on, step on it, I don’t want him to see me!’ … What was I supposed to do – I stepped on it. ‘Lower yourself to keep out of view, you’ve got room down there’– not entirely sure why I just said that … I took off and with the rally calm kicking in, I asked her what happened and if I should call the police. I asked her 3 times. It was obviously the start of a panic attack. She begged me not to leave her there, to take her to a taxi. No one was chasing us, I checked.

I asked her to put my backpack behind the driver’s seat – I got my own paranoia in the Bucharest traffic. She told she is not going to steal from me, to relax about that. She also told me she got lucky and she thanked me. Obviously, the talk did not pan out so smoothly. She told me she was afraid. Laughing, I told her I was also afraid, and I was hoping she won’t point a gun at me. Nothing like this ever happened to me before. We both agreed that the world had gone mad. She jumped out of the car and into a taxi, not before introducing ourselves and looking each other in the eye, with a hint of a smile. 

I was afraid, of course I was, but I also felt this incredible power, escaping an impossible situation. People keep telling me how brave I am in my race car. But, faced with this moment’s conundrum, that didn’t seem like much anymore. To be able to ask for help, to tell someone straight to the face: ‘Go on, step on it! Don’t you leave me here! I wanna make a call! Thanks.’

I was sharing this with my mom, and she told me that now, since I took on this mission to encourage women to follow their dreams, this mission of empowerment behind the wheel and in life, attracting this type of situations is inevitable … As chance would have it, at that time I had the doors unlocked … 

The lesson I took out of it was that I never judged the situation by what it looked like: my intuition came first, and I put her need before my fear – it took me by surprise as well. I realised all of a sudden that there are many types of strong and resilient women out there and a lot of the times their challenges are not visible, those whose trauma is first of all mental – the victims of abuse and harassment – those are the strongest of all. Because domestic violence has some sinister manipulation mechanisms and surviving those takes a different type of bravery, just as meaningful, if not more.