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Nine in 10 women in Brussels victim of sexual intimidation

14:58 10/01/2018

According to a study carried out among Brussels residents by Ghent University, nearly 90% of women living in the capital have been the victim of street harassment. And one in three report dealing with it on a daily basis.

The study was carried out at the request of Bianca Debaets, Brussels’ equal opportunities state secretary. She commissioned the research ahead of the release of a new app called HandsAway Brussels, which will allow women to report when they have been sexually intimidated on the street.

Half of the women also reported being victim to physical harassment or violence by strangers. The figures are well above the European average, which is 60% of women experiencing sexual intimidation and one in three experiencing physical harassment or violence.

The problem is so widespread that Debaets would also like to set up a sting operation whereby women police agents would act as decoys, walking in the areas where the problem is the worst and identifying suspects. The Netherlands already uses this kind of system.

“It is of course difficult to catch these suspects,” Debaets told VTM, “because there isn’t a police officer present when you’re the victim of sexual intimidation.”

The research shows “that women often avoid certain neighbourhoods or adjust their behaviour because of experiencing verbal intimidation,” she says. “Even if it happened years earlier.”

Photo: Siska Gremmelprez/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw