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Ok, where to begin… I have been in Brussels for more than 8 years now and the harassment on the street has been getting worse and worse. I have experienced men lip-smacking at me; calling me all kinds of names; asking me for “my price”; walking into me and insulting me; groping and trying to push me off the street; sitting next to me touching my legs “by accident”; lewd looks; discussing my attributes with others in my presence; and threatening me and calling me racist if I ignored them.
There was a guy walking towards me on the sidewalk, who cupped and squeezed my breast in passing. When I called back at him to keep his hands off me, he just smiled and shrugged and walked on. As if nothing had happened.
There was a man standing behind me on a crowded bus who rode up against me, moaning and puffing as if he was having sex. There was no way for me to move, because the bus was so crowded (frequent travellers on the 95 line will know what I mean), so I used a sudden movement of the bus to step on his foot really hard, then moved away as soon as I could.
Another man passed my front door when I was putting out the trash. He looked me up and down while tut-tutting and whistling and lip-smacking and he blocked my door, demanding that I let him in for a free ride. That was scary – I had to push him away and close the door really quickly.
A couple of guys in a bar approached me and my girls-friends and we took their attention as to be nice and fun, but it quickly turned sour as one of them grabbed my hand and put it on his private parts, holding it there firmly so had had to struggle and make a scene to get someone to help me. We were all very frightened when the barman asked those guys to leave and they threatened to rape us and then loitered outside of the bar for a very long time, making it impossible for us to leave when we wanted to (our evening had already been spoiled).
I can go on and on…
I notice that I have been adapting myself more and more to this environment of fear in Brussels; I wear less bright colours or I put a black jacket over everything; I hardly ever wear dresses or skirts anymore and if I do, they are long; I wear long trousers, never short, even in hot weather; I wear my sunglasses as much as I can to avoid eye contact; I cross the street or take a detour if I get a negative vibe from someone near me; I don’t sit in the park on my own anymore; I avoid having to wait for someone on the street or in a bar on my own; if I eat out alone, I sit inside, not on the terrace; if I read in public, I wrap my book in a neutral cover; I avoid certain parts of Brussels altogether.
My efforts do not make any difference: I am still regularly harassed. And always by men (I am sure women harass as well, but thankfully they do not harass me). I am seriously considering moving away from Brussels, because I cannot be myself anymore in this city.
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