It’s a date they don’t want to miss. An outstretched hand that they are happy to welcome. It’s 2:45 pm on the Champ-de-Mars in Paris. The sun tries to make its way through scattered clouds. It’s nice outside. This Tuesday May 31, Myriam, Badia and Sandrine attended the muscle building session led by Karine Roussier.
Short hair, a smile on her lips and boundless energy, this fifties is the president of Up Sport! United for Sport, a solidarity association that promotes inclusive and accessible sport for the most deprived and vulnerable. For the third year in a row, at the rate of one training per week, she has been guiding a small group of female victims of violence, followed by the Information Center on Women’s and Families’ Rights (CIDFF) in Paris.
The aim of these regular sports activities is to enable women to free themselves from the blocks caused by the violence they have suffered, to regain a body that is sometimes still bruised by blows and to regain self-confidence. On the program? Yoga and relaxation sessions, cycling, swimming, team sports or muscle strengthening and cardio. †The idea is to accompany them in a physical movement, thanks to sport, but also personally and professionally”, explains Karine Roussier. For this she works closely with the psychologist and the professional integration advisor of the CIDFF.
In one of the gravel paths of the Champ-de-Mars garden, colored plots are strewn on the ground, drawing a circular route – or almost. In a single line, the small group of women rush forward and alternate knees, chasing steps and jumping strides. Each round ends with ten squats and ten lunges. The training time for the circuit has arrived and Badia is already trying to negotiate. “Can’t we do six?” Nice try, but Karine won’t be persuaded.
Unity is strength
With her blond hair picked up by a black alligator clip, Badia wears a mischievous smile and exudes joie de vivre. Since she got back into the sport last February, she hasn’t missed a workout. †It’s a moment when I find myself again, I forget everything and let go.” It’s also a relief. A deep sigh from the four walls of the hotel room she has occupied since she left the matrimonial home last December.
†It’s hard being an abused woman. I had withdrawn into myself, I no longer felt like doing anything and went step by step towards depression, she confides, her face suddenly more serious† Finding people who give you the strength to move on is rare.”
This one strength, each also draws it from each other’s life stories. †We know that the people around us have also experienced difficult situations. That makes you feel less alone.” notes Sandra. The 34-year-old mother of three is convinced of one thing: sports saved her life. “During the effort you don’t think about the blows that you have received. You escape, you think about yourself or the ball you have to catch up.”
When they put on their sneakers, the labels fly away for this sporty interlude. †I know their vulnerability and remain vigilant, but I see them primarily as women, to help them stop seeing themselves as just victims of domestic violence. adds Karine. Because that is mainly what they are looking for. Bury this painful past and look to the future.
After a few volleyball passes, Badia shares her desire to become a subway driver with the rest of the group. †I have worked in administration for twenty years, today I want to change my career”, she admits. By his side, Sandrine dreams of becoming a gateball champion. A Japanese sport that revives croquet and which she discovered thanks to Up Sport. “It’s not very well known yet, maybe there is a way!” she exclaims with a laugh. Laughter, fun and time for discussion between teammates, that’s what sport is all about.
It’s 4 pm. Behind this small group of women now playing a game, at the intersection of basketball and handball, stands a proud and confident Eiffel Tower. Badia, Myriam and Sandrine gradually lift their heads and reconnect with themselves. It’s only a matter of time before they too are proud and confident again.