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I got onto a full 92 tram after work and ended up standing next to a seated couple who were visibly in a heated argument. The man was aggressively pulling on his partner’s hands and arms and verbally scolding her as she tried to get out of his strong-hold saying loudly “Let go of me!” “Stop it! You’re hurting me”. I felt the situation escalating and people continued to pretend not to see. Instead of putting any more unwanted attention on the woman, I simply interrupted the man, politely intervened “ca va?” And when he said “yes everything is fine madame, this doesn’t concern you one bit” (in French vous n’avez rien a foutre) I insisted that yes, in fact it did concern me, because his behavior is upsetting not only to his partner, who he was openly harassing, but also to myself and the rest of the passengers. I told him to stop. I spoke loudly and looked around invoking the eye contact of all the people around me while staying calm. This seemed to be enough to calm him down and check himself – he stopped violently grabbing at his partner. As I got off at my stop, I told the driver that there was an aggressive man aboard and asked him to keep alert to the passenger’s behavior. (He told me he was just the driver and couldn’t do anything about it, perhaps he didn’t understand the concept of solidarity/bystanders?)
Be our Hero/ine of the Day ?
Sta je achter Sam en wil je haar verhaal graag in het Nederlands vertalen? Dit kan je gewoon doen door hieronder je vertaling als ‘reactie’ te publiceren!
Vous voulez soutenir Sam et traduire son histoire en français? Vous pouvez le faire simplement en publiant votre traduction en commentaire!
Thank you to the 51 tram driver who stopped for me and checked if I was OK as I ran away from a man late at night. I knew I was safe and would be OK because of you.
Cycling is a huge part of my life living in Brussels. It helps me stay out of reach of a lot of the verbal street harassment plus I ride so fast I can’t see their looks and they can’t touch me. But, harassment in Brussels is stronger than most and I have had men take swings at me, kick at me and one guy stood in the crosswalk at Gare du Midi blocking my way.
Be our Hero/ine of the Day ?
Sta je achter Melissa en wil je haar verhaal graag in het Nederlands vertalen? Dit kan je gewoon doen door hieronder je vertaling als ‘reactie’ te publiceren!
Vous voulez soutenir Melissa et traduire son histoire en français? Vous pouvez le faire simplement en publiant votre traduction en commentaire!
Today, I went running in Bois de la Cambre. Running is my time of the week where I like to be on my own, alone with my thoughts and some good music out in nature. These past few weeks, I have been training for a halfmarathon, which I already trained for 3 years ago but never got to run because I had an accident which disabled me for a while.
It was shortly after 7 pm, it was still quite light out and many people were left in the park to enjoy the sun. While I was running along a more quite and remote part of Allée des Amazones (shortly before you get to this big open grassy space in front of the Woods etc.), someone came and grabbed me from behind – first I thought it was someone I knew trying to scare me but then I realized this was very improbable given the fact that one hand was on my hip and one squeezing my right breast. I squeaked really shrill and turned around and only saw a 16-20 year old boy run away. He looked at me and then turned around again and continued running away. Really perplexed, I shouted something along the lines of “What the f***” at him and started crying.
I tried to call a friend to tell her about this and then decided to continue my run and not to be defeated by this. During the rest of the track, I was feeling quite vulnerable and hurt and very unconfident about my body. I turned off the music in order to hear what is going on around me and turned around nervously every time a runner or biker approached, mistrusting everyone. Needless to say I finished much slower than what I had hoped for.
Be our Hero/ine of the Day ?
Sta je achter Anna en wil je haar verhaal graag in het Nederlands vertalen? Dit kan je gewoon doen door hieronder je vertaling als ‘reactie’ te publiceren!
Vous voulez soutenir Anna et traduire son histoire en français? Vous pouvez le faire simplement en publiant votre traduction en commentaire!
On Tuesday April 30, there will be a demonstration against the lack of prosecution of rapes, that will take place at the Justitiepaleis / Palais de Justice (Place Poelaart) in Brussels. The demonstration will start at 8AM and will probably last a few hours. We won’t be moving from this location.
For this day marks the start of the trial of the accused “T.A.”. He is accused of having raped 14 girls and women including 12 who were underage. Chief witness and victim, Céline Camps, decided to take it upon herself to pursue the case.
We really want to show our support to Céline Camps who has boldly come forward with her story over the past few months. But above all, we really want this initiative to draw attention to the many rapes which go unprosecuted in our country. According to research done by the United Nations, every week 56 rapes and 5 gang rapes are reported in Belgium, yet only 4 percent of the perpetrators are prosecuted (Article in De Standaard, 29/11/2012).
For more information or if you have any questions, please contact us by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via the Facebook group ‘Support Rape Victims: Rise Against Belgian Rape Policy!’
Earlier press mentions (in Dutch) of Céline Camps‘ court case:
• ‘Alle bewijs was er, toch kon hij blijven verkrachten’ (02/03/2013) Douglas De Coninck, De Morgen
• ‘Mijn verkrachter kon veel vroeger afgestopt zijn’ (03/03/2013), Cedric Lagast and Hans Van de Cauter – Het Nieuwsblad
• ‘Geweld tegen vrouwen. Het verhaal van Céline’ (07/03/2013), Hautekiet – Radio Eén
• ‘Moedige getuigenis van Céline bij Sam’ (07/03/2013), Zet ‘m Op Sam – Studio Brussel
The organising committee “Rise Against Rape”
With the full support of the Hollaback! Brussels teamone comment
A guest blog by Emilie Van Limbergen. Re-posted from De Wereld Morgen (04/04/13). (Sorry, only in Dutch. Like to be our Hero/ine of the day? Feel free to translate this post in English or French in the comments! Eternal thanks coming your way!).
We discovered Emilie Van Limbergen ‘par hazard’ with a blogpost she wrote in June 2012 about Hollaback! Brussels, and we’ve been reading her writings ever since.
I’m a journalism major who’s passionate about everything concerning women’s – and thus – human rights. The next three months, I’m doing an internship in the Philippines with the militant women’s organization ‘Gabriela‘ and with ‘Pinoy Weekly’, the local news agency in Manila. In addition, I’ll also be writing for De Wereld Morgen. Hoping to keep the debate going, you’ll be seeing one of my columns or opinion pieces appear here now and then. However, I’m always happy to disagree!
© Photo: Iris de Vree
Daar zit ik dan. Te zweten in een sloppenwijk van Manilla in de Filipijnen. Een flesje ijskoude limonade in de ene hand, een koekje in de andere. Op een tuinstoel voor de deur van Elsie. Ze vertelt me het verhaal van haar tienjarige kleindochter en ik ben bang om te bewegen. Ik ben bang dat als ik me verroer, Elsie zal stoppen met praten.
‘Ze liep ’s avonds met haar vader naar huis’, begint de grootmoeder. Een tandeloze, maar ook humorloze glimlach speelt om haar lippen terwijl ze me het verhaal vertelt.
De kleindochter wil nog even een vriendje dag zeggen een paar huizen verderop. Ze loopt alleen naar het huis, waar een vreemde, dronken man aan de deur staat te morrelen. ‘Wat doe je?’, -vraagt het tienjarige meisje onschuldig. ‘Ik woon hier’, stamelt de dronkenlap. ‘Nee, hier woont iemand anders, waarom ben je hier?’, -dringt het meisje aan. ‘Moet je naar het toilet?’, -vraagt de man plots. Terwijl het meisje haar hoofd schudt, grijpt de man haar bij haar nek en sleurt haar in een donker toilet, in een zijstraatje naast het huis.
Hij houdt haar vast terwijl hij zijn broek wil losknopen. Het meisje schopt en slaat en is in staat zich los te trekken. Zonder te twijfelen loopt ze weg, maar hij komt achter haar aan. Hij grijpt haar opnieuw vast op straat en duwt haar tegen de muur. Haar vader hoort een kind schreeuwen en komt kijken.
‘Wat is er hier aan de hand?’, vraagt hij. Dan pas ziet hij dat het zijn dochter is die roept. Hij loopt op de man af. Die vraagt simpelweg: ‘Is het geld dat je wil? Hoeveel wil je ervoor?’ De vader bokst de man en grijpt zijn kind, loopt naar het huis en sluit de deur.
Ik luister gespannen. Zonder dat ik het merk, verbrijzel ik het koekje in mijn hand. Plots staat het tienjarige kleindochtertje voor mijn neus. Grote, bruine ogen die me een beetje angstig, maar ook nieuwsgierig aankijken.
‘Ze is bang’, vertelt haar grootmoeder me. ‘Ze wil nergens meer alleen naartoe en ’s avonds huilt ze zichzelf meestal in slaap. Elke nacht heeft ze nachtmerries over de aanval.’
Toen ik tien jaar oud was, had ik angsten. Ik was bang dat mijn moeder het licht niet zou aanlaten op de gang als ik ging slapen. Om een of andere onverklaarbare reden had ik mezelf ervan overtuigd dat er een krokodil onder mijn bed zat. Ik was daar zo zeker van, dan mijn moeder elke avond onder mijn bed moest kijken. Mijn angsten, mijn monsters bestonden uit fantasieën die ik zelf had gecreëerd. Overblijfsels van een eng boek dat ik had gelezen, een film waar ik eigenlijk nog te jong voor was of een verhaal dat ik ergens had opgepikt.
Dit tienjarig meisje heeft ook angsten. Ze durft niet over straat op haar eentje. Het liefst slaapt ze bij haar moeder in bed. Elke nacht heeft ze nachtmerries. Maar haar angsten zijn echt. Haar monster kruipt niet rond in de schaduwen. Hij loopt in het licht. Hij leeft en woont en eet en slaapt en vrijt met zijn vrouw op een straat van het meisje.
Haar leven in de sloppenwijk is al zo goed als uitgestippeld. Er is geen geld voor hoger onderwijs. Er is geen geld om weg te gaan. De verplichting tegenover de familie is te groot om niet te helpen. De verwachtingen zijn te drukkend om niet te trouwen. Uiteindelijk zal ze dus net als alle andere meisjes hier een man moeten zoeken, kinderen baren en werken tot ze erbij neervalt.
Alsof dat nog niet genoeg is, werd ze ook nog eens geconfronteerd met de harde realiteit. Namelijk dat zij, als meisje, als vrouw, nergens veilig is. Dat zelfs haar prille leeftijd haar niet kan beschermen van de monsters die vrij rondlopen.
Ik wil haar troosten. Ik wil haar kunnen zeggen dat niet elke man haar zo zal behandelen. Ik wil met haar een zondagmiddag Disneyfilms kijken en koekjes eten, zoals in mijn ogen elke tienjarige zou moeten doen. Maar het gaat helemaal niet om wat ik wil. Het gaat om wat zij wil. En zij wil gewoon over straat kunnen, zonder bang te zijn.
Dus daar zit ik dan, te zweten in een sloppenwijk van Manilla, met een ijskoude limonade in de hand en de kruimels van een koekje in de andere. En ik durf me niet te bewegen.
Emilie Van Limbergen.—
Hollaback! Brussels is welcoming of one-time and regular Guest Bloggers to the site. Find them all in our Guest Blog section!
The idea is to use this site to the fullest, to be a transparent platform, to bring debate to the table, to allow people to voice their opinions in line with our Hollaback values. We hope that multiple and diverse tales on this site can help create the support everyone needs to break through the silence around street harassment, racism, homophobia and gender-based violence.
Feel like seeing your guest blog up here? Please contact us with a piece of your writing and we’ll get back to you!
A guest blog and #ShareTheStreets report by Anna Claire, one of our current rock star volunteers!! Re-posted from her blog Go Away Everywhere (23/4/2013).
I became a volunteer for Hollaback! Brussels after I went to the second of their two sessions with the students in my program, sessions organized by our fabulously thoughtful and sensitive coördinator Chloé. Several students in the fall had approached her about incidents of harassment they’d experienced in Brussels and how to cope with it, and she, having heard of Hollaback, went to then four (now six!) Hollaback organizers — Julie, Anna, Ingrid, Angelika, Quentin and Jo — and asked them if they’d be willing to do informational outreach sessions with our group.
If you read my “Femanifest #1,” I mentioned that I had happened across a particular article concerning violence against women (link to Rebecca Solnit) not long before the second session. I’d researched organizations in Brussels which offer women who have suffered violence various forms of aid, but I was looking in particular for volunteer opportunities, which seemed few and far between. I know what I’m doing when I get back to Burlington — the HOPE Works organization downtown is always in need of volunteers — but I didn’t want to wait another seven months before I could take action. It’s not like Brussels is clean of these same kinds of violences. Far from it.
I approached Anna after the second session and asked her what I could do, be it for Hollaback or anywhere else in the city. She took my e-mail and a few e-mails, odd jobs, translations, and virtual hollahugs later, and I was at my first Hollaback offline meeting with the organizers and the other volunteers. I can’t emphasize enough the aura of enthusiastic, all-inclusive optimism that envelopes the Hollaback! Brussels crew. They are resolute and fired up about their goals to point out the wrongness of street harassment and to end it in Brussels’ eighteen communes, but they are not fueled by anger. They’re my favorite example as to how a certain dose of anger is helpful, but too much is counterproductive, is poisonous, is actually destructive. It is from this mélange of good feelings but firm desires and plans of action that the “#ShareTheStreets” idea was derived.
“#ShareTheStreets” built on Hollaback! Brussels’ goal last year of “reclaiming” the streets. There is the sensation, now, that we are more aware of the streets; we are more sensitive to the fact that they belong as much to us as to any harassers who would like to make us feel otherwise; we are more determined not to allow harassment push us to take a much longer route to work or to prevent us from going to a certain event because it’s in a neighborhood where we’ve been harassed. Here, we want to pass that knowledge on to everyone — the streets and public space belong to everyone. Everyone has the right to pass through or to stop and enjoy it as much as they’d like, without any fear of being harassed or assaulted. No matter what time. No matter who they’re with. No matter what they’re doing. No matter what they’re wearing. No matter their gender, sexuality, race or ethnicity. Hollabackers decided that some of the best ways to emphasize these facts were to focus on empowering bystanders to be active, brave, and empathetic; to share stories of positive experiences in Brussels and prove that street harassers do not define the city; and to leave small presents and encouraging or informational messages in public places in the center for passersby to find, to read, and to pass on.
As they say succinctly on their site, “Because only together can we make this city harassment-, discrimination- and violence-free.”
My contribution to the #ShareTheStreets walk was a handful of mix CDs and ten poems, five in English and five in French. I tagged them all with the message cards we made together at the Hollaback offline meeting. Each message card read “#ShareTheStreets” on the front in Brussels’ three languages and proclaimed a different message on the flip side. Some simply said, “See harassment? Hollaback!” while others detailed a different bystander tip. I threw everything in my backpack and headed to the Mont des Arts to meet up with the rest of the Hollaback crew.
They were very visible, having spread out different craft and project materials over some square meters of gravel and a bench. They were tying notecards, putting poems and messages in plastic bags, unwinding feather mobiles — they were chalking on the whitewashed trees and the benches, talking, laughing, aww-ing at the happy factor present in each gift. One box overflowed with small flowers and plants potted in cups, probably our most noticeable and popular gift of the day. Every bench in the park was full of people sunning themselves, enjoying their lunch, reading books, meeting friends, sharing pictures on cameras, relishing the light touch of spring present in the air. One of the volunteers was playing guitar and singing softly in Spanish. Another was a young girl, couldn’t have been older than ten, who was solemnly focused on her task of tying cards to presents.
We began by looping yarn around trees, tying mobiles in their branches. We stuck notecards attached to bobby pins in the bushes and placed the plants on empty benches. We taped the poetry to flat surfaces. Out of the Mont des Arts, we created a veritable, living, breathing mountain of simple, creative, positive art. And even while we were decorating the park, people were touching the mobiles, reading the cards, taking pictures. I videotaped a few of their reactions, when I was sure it wouldn’t be too creepy. They would read the front of the card, flip it over to read the longer message, then nod their heads in agreement. I overheard one guy say to his girlfriend, “That’s so cool. That’s a really good idea.” They seemed a little hesitant to take the more elaborate pieces down. That was part of our whole point — what’s out there in public space is for all of us. These are for you. Take them, love them, pass them on.
Once we decided we’d sufficiently arted the park, we moved to the square in front of the clock and began to chalk. A chalk walk, for those who don’t know, is a simple concept: it involves grabbing a piece of chalk and scrawling a message on a surface to reclaim a part of public space and both make it your own and open it up to others. The concept originally started as a means of reclaiming the spaces where someone was harassed. It’s part of an element of cognitive behavioral therapy, Ingrid explained to us later, to have the patient confront exactly what it is that traumatizes him or her. It’s a major part of the healing, possibly the most difficult part. Having been a patient to this kind of therapy myself, I could tell you, in detail, how hard it is. And I can also tell you how much it heals. The person harassed writes whatever will help them — a message to the harasser, a message to harassers in general, a message alerting people to the realities of street harassment — whatever will best help them reclaim the space. It’s moving, Ingrid was saying, it’s an incredible emotional experience, both to feel and to witness.
From there, we moved down le Boulevard de l’Empereur, tying notes to lamp posts and banisters and window wipers, putting gifts in the baskets of the city’s Villo bicycles, leaving plants and small pieces of beaded jewelry on windowsills. After a quick pick-me-up in Al Jannah on Rue Blaes, we continued through la Place du Jeu de Balle and reached la Porte de Hal as our final destination. We drew long chalked messages down the sloping sidewalks of the park, decorated all the fences, and took a few minutes to appreciate both the work we’d done in the park and the work we’d done throughout the whole day.
While I was tying a few message cards to a fence, a couple with their three small dogs strolled up behind me. One of the men was watching what I was doing as he slowly passed and he said under his breath in English to his partner, “I wonder what they’re doing?” The other man shrugged.
I turned and grinned. “Do you want me to tell you?”
He laughed. “Yes!”
I explained that it was International Anti-Street Harassment Week, that our concept was sharing the streets with everyone, and if they should happen to see one of our gifts, they should pick it up. The two nodded and carried on walking their dogs. They moved slowly through the park, reading all the note cards, picking up the flowers, touching the mobiles. As they came to the end of a full loop, nearly meeting back up with us, the first man decided to pick up a tulip bulb planted in a pot. Ingrid clapped, so excited someone had taken the initiative to claim a present. Beaming, he asked if he could take a picture with a few of us. His partner held the three leashes and snapped a shot of the two of us with the triumphant present finder. He turned to us afterwards and, clutching his plant, said, “I’m so glad you all are doing this. The city needs something like this. We,” he said, gesturing to his partner, “are kind of known in the neighborhood. Here in St. Gilles, you know, ‘cause we’re always walking the dogs. We just got harassed pretty badly last week… we get spit on and stuff.” He paused. “So thank you, really.”
I wanted to hug the shit out of him. “That’s why we’re doing this. We absolutely do need this. That shouldn’t happen.” I didn’t need to tell him that, of course. We waved an amical goodbye.
We finished up our long afternoon and evening with a quick drink in Potemkine, just across the street. It’s a special group of people, the Brussels Hollabackers. We talked forever, about all sorts of things ranging from feminism and harassment to films we remembered from childhood. The conversation on the more difficult, often heated issues–rape culture, street harassment, Femen’s actions–took place in the way these conversations always should: without anger, without hate, without judgment. Only open ears and an effort to understand what someone is saying and why. The space between those in the group and between others is so open, so free, so fluid. You never feel ill at ease, or like an outsider–you feel like you are one of them. I don’t mean that in a clique way. I think it comes from the fact that they are working to foster that kind of communication on a large scale in Brussels–that openness and that freedom–and they start with themselves, in their daily lives, with their friends, family, and acquaintances. It’s not a sensation of a conscious effort on their part to try to include everyone and make everyone feel good–it’s just what ends up happening because it is coming from such a positive place. That is Hollaback! Brussels. That is the principle of #ShareTheStreets.
And because of this positivity, I experienced a feeling in the streets of Brussels that I’d never felt before, or if I have, it hasn’t been for any longer than a few minutes. I felt… I mean, I felt like myself. I felt like I could walk where I wanted, do what I wanted, whistle what I wanted (I was whistling a lot of indie folk hits), skip up and down the pavé however I wanted. I didn’t worry about whether my skirt was riding up or not, or whether my shirt was slouching down too low. I didn’t spare two seconds’ thought to what male passersby might do to me. It wasn’t particularly because we were all in a group–as we walked, we spread out over large areas to scatter our presents as widely as possible. It wasn’t because I was taking a defensive, it’s my right to be here too, kind of attitude. It was, plain and simple, that hopefulness, that belief in the citizens of Brussels that we are mostly good, we are inherently good, and we just need a little nudge to show it. Maybe a girl with a navy knapsack and floral sunglasses whistling Boy & Bear’s “Feeding Line” was a nudge for someone. Maybe finding a potted plant in the basket of a Villo was another. Maybe seeing a group of teenagers clustered around one of our longer messages, reading it out loud, was yet one other.
The streets belong to all of us. Owning the streets, reclaiming them, it doesn’t mean guarding them jealously to ourselves. Then we’re back to square one. It meant what I felt that Saturday that we walked from the Mont des Arts to les Marolles, making each other and other smile, getting strangers to walk away with an extra bit of reflection and of kindness. Even getting one person to think differently about street harassment, or making a victim’s day a little brighter–that’s still one person whose day you affected, and positively.
We didn’t take Brussels by storm. We took it by cups of plant and petites pensées du jour.
Anna Claire.one comment
The thing I’ve come to love most about Brussels is actually inexplicable, indescribable, in any words available to me in my measly two languages. Many other people not native to the city share the same sentiment. These people — such as myself — they come to Brussels to study for a semester or for a temporary job, end up staying for a year, end up finishing their degree here, end up getting a master’s, a long-term job, meeting a partner, starting a real life for themselves. When they talk about living in Brussels, they mention when they first got here and then say, with a shrug, “Aaaand… I’m still here!” When you ask them why, they shrug again.
It’s not the same thing as with a large, popular world capital, like New York, or Paris, or London, where people have countless reasons to go. It’s not the same thing as with a hip Euro city like Berlin, or a fair-weathered Mediterranean city like Barcelona or Rome. There, in those places, there are concrete, obvious reasons to go. Here, people assume that all Brussels has to offer is beer and the E.U. But there’s something much more subtle, much more pervasively beautiful, about the culture here, about the way of life. There’s something magnetic that draws people in once and makes it hard for them to tear themselves away. I feel it, and I know I’m not the only one.
Brussels deserves better than to have this shimmering appeal disappear under cat-calls, under groping, under lewd gestures and physical displays, under sexual and physical violence in the streets. For every negative incident I experience in public places, I have three that are positive. But the positives are so much easier to forget when a man spits curse words at you as he pushes by in a crowded square. The more we share what we love about Brussels with others — the more we share those good vibes that have drawn us in — the more those damaging assaults will disappear.