As carnival season gets under way in Germany, police in Cologne have taken to handing out flyers telling women to “break away”, “scream” and “repel” if they are sexually assaulted.
After the mass sex attacks in the city on New Year’s Eve, police fear a repeat performance as crowds gather for the traditional carnival celebrations, especially during “Weibefastnacht” when hundreds of women gather in costumes, drink Kölsch beer and sing.
Wolfgang Baldes, chief commissioner of the city’s police, says he is losing sleep about what has already happened, fearing gangs of migrant men may once again start attacking women.
“Quite simply, we’ve never had a situation like this in Cologne before,” he told Deutsche Welle. “Everything’s different this year. The police have been allocated far more officers; we’ve stepped up security measures massively.”
One measure has been to hand out flyers telling women what to do if they are attacked. An English language version warns against “pickpockets, hugger-muggers and sexual offenders tak[ing] advantage of the party mood” and warns women “Beware of physical contact!”
It advises “In case of sexual assault: Break away – Scream – Repel” and then “File a criminal complaint at the police [sic]”.
— Jan Bruck (@jan_bruck) February 4, 2016
German tabloid Bild also reports that authorities have set up a “security point” near the cathedral square for any women who have been harassed or threatened where they will be escorted by female security staff into a reception room to be assessed by psychologists and social workers.
The cathedral square was the main flashpoint on New Year’s Eve, where hundreds of migrants assaulted women and let off fireworks into the crowds, causing chaotic scenes.
The city of Düsseldorf is also setting up its own security point for harassed women, with the city’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner Elizabeth Wilfart commenting: “Women should be able to celebrate carefree on Carnival and feel safe.”
One female reveller, described by DW as ‘Lisa the Pirate’, puts on a brave face and says she will not allow fear to put her off joining in with Weibefastnacht.
“We’re not going to let news like that scare us off and spoil the party atmosphere,” she says, but then adds: “But of course we’re never alone; we always go around in a group.”