Why Does Mayor Blame Assault Victims?
Why would Henriette Reker, the mayor of Cologne, Germany, blame women for being sexually assaulted?
You’ve probably heard about Cologne’s New Year’s Eve celebration, where groups of men — maybe more than 1,000 of them — surrounded individual women, groped them and stole their belongings. There were at least two rape accusations.
Yet the mayor merely told women to keep more than an arm’s length away from men? That’s hard to do in a congested square, where people are pushing to get in.
Or, maybe women should just avoid crowded festivities altogether?
But why should women bear the responsibility for the sins of others?
I agree with Justice Minister, Heiko Maas, who tweeted:
I don’t think much of tips for behavior for women, such as ‘an arm’s length.’ Not women are responsible, but the perpetrators.
What’s with the mayor?
So what’s with the mayor?
Some people blame victims because they have unconsciously internalized a way of seeing that protects perpetrators (who are usually men) at the expense of victims (who are usually women). And that’s because we tend to see the world through the eyes of the powerful (usually men) over the more powerless (more often women).
Victims are also blamed when someone fears that accusing perpetrators will make themselves look bad.
The Cologne assailants were described as Arab, and Mayor Reker has been a strong proponent of accepting Syrian political refugees. But many worry that terrorists will filter through as wolves in sheep’s clothing, and are angry with her. (And certainly, refugees do need to be thoroughly screened.) So she may have been worried about adding fuel to that fire.
Ms. Reker may also worry about creating an “us versus them” mentality that plays into ISIL’s hands: make young Muslim men feel like everyone is against them, enrage them, and radicalize them, creating home-grown terrorists.
The problem is not Arabs nor Muslims nor men. The problem is patriarchy
I feel that anyone who commits crimes should pay for them. Regardless of ethnicity.
But we must be clear that the problem is not Arabs nor Muslims nor men. The problem is patriarchy: valuing and privileging men over women. As expressed here: intimidating and demeaning women through sexual assault.
Rabia Chaudhry is a Muslim woman who wrote an op-ed for the San Jose Mercury News, saying that US Muslims should rally around Islam’s true, peaceful, message. She explains,
True Islam rejects all forms of terrorism. It believes in nonviolent Jihad of the self and of the pen. It believes in the equality, education and empowerment of women.
The Quaran and early Islam, as explained by the Prophet Mohammed, actually had a rather feminist air.
Meanwhile, an average of 10 rapes are reported each Oktoberfest, usually perpetrated by non-Arabs. Karoline Beisel and Beate Wild wrote about the problem of sexual assault at festivities in the Süddeutsche Zeitung:
The way to the toilet alone is like running the gauntlet: within 50 feet, you can be sure to tally three hugs from drunken strangers, two pats on the ass, someone looking up your dirndl, and some beer purposely splashed right down your cleavage.
Whether you are Middle Eastern or have a long German family line (full disclosure, I’m mostly British and German), the problem is an attitude that devalues women.
Posted on January 15, 2016, in feminism, psychology, rape and sexual assault, violence against women, women and tagged Cologne, feminism, Germany, Henriette Reker, political refugees, psychology, rape, sexual assault, victim-blaming, women. Bookmark the permalink. 47 Comments.