The campaign focuses on the 5D principle, with the Ds standing for “delay, distract, direct, delegate and document”, Source: Naseem Buras / Unsplash

Brussels to make public places safer for women by engaging vigilant citizens

Brussels to make public places safer for women by engaging vigilant citizens

According to a survey by the Brussels Capital Region, 86% of women have experienced sexual harassment and 17% have experienced stalking

Today, authorities in the Brussels Capital Region launched a new campaign called Join the Fam to help address sexual harassment and violence problems in public spaces. The campaign wants to focus on educating the public on what to do if they are a witness to an act of harassment and violence, removing the ‘passive bystander’ from the equation.

Most women experience some form of harassment or violence

The campaign also cites a study by Plan International Belgium, a humanitarian organisation dedicated to advancing children’s and girls’ rights. The study was from 2019 and it claimed that 9 out of 10 women have experienced some form of harassment or sexual violence in their life.

Additionally, in most cases, the harassment involved whistling and sexually aggressive remarks, while in around a third of cases, it involved unwanted touching.

Moreover, a similar study, made by Brussels Capital Region among 426 women found that more than half experienced at least one form of violence from their partner in their life. 86% experienced sexual harassment and 17% experienced stalking.

Also, in 2014 Brussels enacted a law penalizing sexual harassment in public places with a jail sentence of one month to one year and/or a fine between 500-1,000 euros. Public spaces are defined as all spaces that are available to everyone without limitation.

The 5D system

The core idea behind the campaign is to build a network of people, dedicated to being vigilant against sexual violence and harassment in public. These are the people for whom #jointhefam, means they join a sort of caring circle, like a family.

Additionally, the campaign gives five pieces of advice for people on how to safely engage with a difficult situation if they are nearby, also known as the 5D rule, with the Ds standing for “delay, distract, direct, delegate and document”.

  1. Distract - As witnesses, people can try to divert attention by pretending to know the victim, making noise, drawing attention to something else in the area, starting to sing or asking the time.
  2. Document - Filming an act, while staying safely away can be of great importance to the victim as the video can be used as evidence in court. Some things to keep in mind are trying to capture the perpetrator in a recognizable way and keeping the video off social media, as this could lead to secondary victimization.
  3. Direct – People can also try to address the attacker himself, by speaking in a firm voice and asking him to stop in a commanding tone. This may alarm or make him flee.
  4. Delegate – This is when a witness seeks help from a bystander or a representative of public order and it may include everyone from police to bus drivers to shopkeepers.
  5. Dialogue – After people witness an act and the perpetrator is no longer present, it is important to reassure the victim that everything will be fine or to create a safe environment, while waiting for the relevant authorities to arrive.



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