It’s more than a little shocking – moreover it’s absolutely appalling and disgusting – that in our ever shrinking world (where we can contact the other side of the world via word, photograph or video within seconds) that the news of MASS SCALE SEXUAL ASSAULTS ON WOMEN only begins to gain attention after a week of silence.
The New Year went off with more than bang when mobs of men in city Cologne, Hamburg, and Stuttgart in Germany turned violent and angry. Reports reveal that fireworks were thrown into crowds and the police claimed to have felt notably intimidated by the angry crowds. The final results were worse, with over 100 women assaulted by the mob: many reported being groped and verbally insulted, some where even raped by men in the crowd.
Little has been done in the way of appeasing or supporting these women’s fight for justice – news is only now breaking of the mass scale of the assaults and the horrid nature of what seems an almost systemic attack on women in these cities. Cologne’s Mayor Henriette Reker has disappointed the public, with her response seemingly admonishing the women for being out in the first place – she has advised women to travel in group and keep an arms length between themselves and men, she has even promised to publish a set of guidelines, her “code of conduct”, advising and preparing women, how kind of her. Furthermore, the Cologne Police Chief has been removed from his post following weak responses, both during and after the events (no one has yet been arrested despite the public and mass nature of the assaults) and after allegations that the scale and nature of the event was being covered up within the police force.
The nature of these attacks rest on the crux of a very volatile social issue currently shaking Europe: that of Syrian refugees and the immigrant crisis. Germany, crucially, has been both applauded and criticised for welcoming scores of Syrian migrants into the country and it is these people who are largely being held accountable for these attacks.
The facts and as we know them are as follows and are updated with some common sense knowledge:
- Mobs of men (over 1000 in Cologne) are reported to have sexually assaulted a number of women on New Years Eve 2016.
- These men are reported to have been of Arab and African descent – just to be clear, this is what is being stated in many newspapers at the moment, if the crowd is as large as stated (over 1000 men) not all could be so clearly identified, some may have been white, Asian, Mexican, or even – shockingly – German.
- No arrests have yet been made.
- No political, ethnic, social or racial group has taken responsibility for the attacks.
- Several reports are stating that Syrian men were boasting of their new reputations in Germany to police – this, obviously, does not necessarily mean these men were actually Syrian.
Finally and most crucially:
What is going to come across most as this event gains more media attention is the racial crux. What the media and subsequently the people will discuss and condemn will be the Syrian men who commited this act. This is not a racial issue; this is an act of gender based violence. This is an act of misogyny in its most volatile form. This is the physical form of sexism at its most extreme.
The problem with what happened in Cologne was little to do with race and everything to do with gender; the perpetrators of this crime were men. In over 95 per cent of cases regarding rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment and intimidation, the perpetrators are men.
Rebecca Solnit, in her illuminating essay “The Longest War” states:
We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human right’s issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender. (http://www.commondreams.org/views/2013/01/24/longest-war-one-against-women)
That gender is, unfortunately, male. Solnit apologetically continues by stating that of course not all men are violent (thank God); but violence is often perpetrated by men.
That is why what needs to be focused on following these large scale events is not the Syrian or migrant elements of the attacks – of course, should any Syrian men be found responsible and guilty of these crimes they should rightly be punished – but should concentrate on the fact that of the 1000 people committing these attacks there is one definite determining factor which binds them: they are all men.
We all know what New Years Eve is about. We all know why we join with our loved ones and celebrate – boisterously, sanguinely, or quietly. We do it to ring in a not only a New Year, but a new opportunity, another 12 months. We do so with optimism and hope and sometimes alcohol.
We have insurmountable expectations for the year to come; but for the women of Cologne this was not the expectation. None of those women expected or deserved this to happen.