Cologne Urges Women to Adopt “Code of Conduct” After Men Target Women on New Year’s Eve

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From this past Thursday evening to Friday morning, officers in the German city of Cologne received multiple complaints from women alleging they were robbed, sexually assaulted, or raped around the city’s main train station. At least 60 criminal complaints have been filed from New Year’s Eve, including one charge of rape.

In response to the attacks, Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker is urging women to “adopt a code of conduct” in order to stay safe. Reker explained at a press conference,

There’s always the possibility of keeping a certain distance of more than an arm’s length. That is to say to make sure yourself you don’t look to be too close to people who are not known to you, and to whom you don’t have a trusting relationship.

The Mayor advised women to “stick together in groups, don’t get split up, even if you’re in a party mood.” The Telegraph writes that the code will soon become available online.

Reker also reminded reporters that, although police say the perpetrators have been described as “of Arab or North African appearance,” it is

[…] completely improper … to link a group that appeared to come from North Africa with the refugees […] We don’t currently have any suspects, so we don’t know who the perpetrators were. All we know is that the police at the scene perceived that it was mostly young men aged 18 to 35 from the Arab or North African region.

Although I appreciate Reker publicly attempting to quell the inevitable racism and profiling that will likely accompany this story, I do wish that her conference hadn’t included advice for women on how not to be assaulted.

I obviously don’t think it’s a bad idea for the women of Cologne to try and travel in groups or to take precautions around strangers when possible, but Reker isn’t giving women any advice we haven’t heard before. Codes of conduct like this, especially when they’re laid down by official entities, ultimately do nothing but victim blame and potentially make other survivors think twice about coming forward. If the Code of Conduct emphasized free public transportation service at night, or a help line survivors could call, or anything else aside from the kind of precautionary measures women are advised to take from childhood and shamed for not following if an attack does occur, then I wouldn’t be so concerned. As it stands, though, I feel as if Reker’s well-intentioned measures only legitimize victim-blaming and other dangerous misconceptions surrounding sexual violence, and at the worst possible time for the women of Cologne.

Regardless, this seems like an incredibly fraught and complicated time for the city, and I would not want to be in Mayor Reker’s shoes. What do you think, gang?

(via Mediaite and The New York Times)

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