The problem is not new, and does not stop outside the capital. But the stories of two victims speaking in this article, underlines how serious the problem is and what impact it has on their lives.
Anonymous witness tells about several incidents
The first account is from a 29-year-old lady who wants to stay anonymous. "When I am walking in the street, I get many intimidating looks. I have been followed and touched as well. On one occasion, I was pulled inside a car. (...) When I walk through Brussels, I always have the impression that the hunting season has started. You feel like a prey."
As a result, she adapted her behaviour when she comes to Brussels: "I make sure I am not wearing a skirt or a dress. I will never have too much alcohol to drink there. And I never come alone. I always bring friends, preferably male friends."
When I come to Brussels, I never drink too much alcohol. I avoid wearing a dress or skirt and try to take male friends with me
Ilona was attacked in the Jubelpark
23-year-old Ilona tells the VRT about a physical assault in the popular Jubelpark in Brussels. "I went jogging there one morning around 7:30. It was already light outside when I arrived at the park. Suddenly a man pushed me on the ground and pulled off my jogging pants. I started screaming. After a couple of minutes another lady heard me and came to help." The man managed to flee the scene and there was no trace of him.
Ilona went to the police to report the aggression, but the case was closed in July last year as the assailant could not be found. Ilona underlines that this problem does not stop outside Brussels: "It can happen in any city. Extra street lights or more cameras will not solve the issue. We need more awareness in society. Men should know their limits."
We need more awareness in society in general
Special police teams patrol the streets
Reports about sexual intimidation and violence in Brussels are not new. At present, police services across the capital receive more than one complaint each day, but this is just the tip of the iceberg as many victims don't go to the police.
Since March, two of six police zones in the capital are deploying so-called "sexism control teams". Police officers in plain clothing patrol the streets to monitor sexual intimidation or other sexist behaviour that can't be tolerated in order to catch offenders red-handed.
The two first tickets were written in the Brussels North police zone recently. In both cases, a female undercover police officer was intimidated by men. Olivier Slosse, who heads the police zone Brussels Capital-Elsene says that "we focus on places where sexual intimidation is more likely to happen, such as public transport, bus or metro stops and in parks." The aim is also to create more awareness among men: talking to them is just as important as writing a ticket.
It doesn't stop with writing a ticket. It is important to talk to the offenders