Everywhere in Germany, in villages, towns and the metropolises alike sexist assaults and molestations are happening daily against women. Sexism is a daily routine in Germany and europe, not only since new years eve on the „Domplatte“ in Cologne. Already in 2014 a study came to the conclusion that every tenth woman in Europe has experienced sexual violence since their 15th birthday. Every twentieth woman was raped*. The dark figure is higher. Additionally criminal complaints with the police rather lead to re-traumatisation than to a fair lawsuit. Sexualized violence just like manly dominant behavior is a sad reality in Germany that is not spoken about.
The incidents in Cologne, Hamburg and other cities have rightfully provoked a debate about sexual violence now that is absent all too often. Also, the pressure to reform sexual criminal law seems to be higher after reform-efforts stalled in September due to a blockade from the „Bundeskanzleramt“ (Office of the Chancelor). On the other side the CDU and parts of the SPD want to use the incidents in Cologne now to „hollow-out“ the right of asylum even more. Very generally they want to make deportations easier after offenses of any kind. The bitter irony of this story: Even women, trans- and interpersons who are fleeing sexual violence in their origin-countries will be affected by this. Allegedly protected will be only the german woman, protected from the migrant man. Hardly surprising is that now racist sexists can participate in the debate as „prosecutors“: For instance Horst Seehofer (CSU), who in 1997 voted against making rape in a marriage an offense.
The debate after the incidents is so loud now mostly because the white majority-sexism has found an event to its own discharge: Rapists are always the others. But in this debate the most common group of offenders is not in the spotlight, the close social environment: The partner, the father, the brother, the uncle, the nice neighbor from next door, the roommate and so on. 80% of all cases of sexualized violence are happening in this offender-group. Not Sex but living out societal power relations in an extreme form are most important, something that besides women affects men seen as not-hegemonial, trans- and intersexuals, too.
Those who otherwise on social media threat with rape , trivialize it or use other decidedly antifeminist strategies are not acting up as the protectors of „our women“. In the last months we have seen not only racist agitation on Facebook pages against refugee shelters but at the same time pure hate against women who are engaged in support work for refugees, they were threatened with fantasies of violence and rape. Antifeminism and racism go hand in hand.
The authorities, media and antifeminists are always fast with advice for women affected by sexualized violence – pants instead of skirts, avoiding crowds alltogether if possible etc. Necessary however is advice for men: Refuse manly brash bearing of dominance, get involved if you observe sexist flirting and, above everything, pay attention to the limits of others. To be in solidarity does not mean to protect the „weak sex“ but to recognize all genders as affected by patriarchal power structures. Empowerment instead of #one-armlength-distance!
Images of manliness that are formed through dominance and power and are characterized by violence are encouraging sexualized violence and must be fought! Be it in the sports club, on the grandstands at football, in professional live or in our own polit-group. Male fraternities are developing fast and are reproducing daily the „apparent“ predominance. Even though society has changed in a few areas in the last decades: Sexism is and remains a problem and a reality!
All people affected by sexualized violence, be it through touching the body without asking in a party-situation, through the sexist saying, through unwanted assgrabbing during carnival or through rape: You all have our solidarity. Be it yesterday or on new years eve on the „Domplatte“ of Cologne, be it tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
January 2016, Interventionist Left Berlin
*European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014): Violence against women: an EU-wide survey. Main results report