Beyond #MeToo: Where to Get Help For Sexual Assault and Harassment In Berlin

In response to social media's latest viral campaign, we've put together a directory of English-language resources for sexual assault victims living in Berlin.

#embroidery #fiberart #feministart #stitchersofinstagram #embroider #boyswillbeboys

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Over the past week, thousands of women and non-binary people have been tweeting and sharing the hashtag #MeToo over social media. The bold gesture — which is meant to shed light on the magnitude of people who experience sexual abuse — went viral following a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano last Sunday. As a result of the ongoing allegations against Harvey Weinstein, many actresses including Rosario Dawson, Evan Rachel Wood and Gabrielle Union have also chosen to share their stories with the hashtag. But #MeToo isn’t just about Hollywood; female-identifying and non-binary people across the world have used the hashtag to share their own stories of harassment.

While we can thank Milano for the movement’s recent resurgence, the #MeToo campaign was originally pioneered by Black activist Tarana Burke in 2006 – a little known fact that has been erased from publications such as Rolling Stone and The Atlantic. When asked about the lack of credit, Burke told Ebony, “The celebrities who popularised the hashtag didn’t take a moment to see if there was work already being done[…] I don’t think it was intentional but somehow sisters still managed to get diminished or erased in these situations.” Despite the ongoing lack of acknowledgement from major media publications, at least Milano has since given credit where it’s due.

Aside from the fact #MeToo has existed for a decade, this is far from the first time that victims have been called upon to expose their trauma in the name of exposure (who remembers #WhyILeft or #BeenRapedNeverReported?). Plus, as well-intentioned as it may be, #MeToo is another movement that places the burden of sexual violence on the victim. Instead, we should be questioning why thousands of individuals coming forward is what it takes for people (men) to realise that sexual assault isn’t a rarity – a fact that women have already known for quite some time. Most high-profile investigations against sexual predators – be it Harvey Weinstein or Bill O’Reilly or Bill Cosby – have required dozens of women to come forward for the cases to be widely acknowledged. One allegation should be enough. One victim should be enough. Additionally, it leans on the misguided rhetoric that we as humans should only care about violence against women when it’s someone close to us. How many times have we heard men say, “These are our daughters, our mothers and our sisters so we must care for them”? Ben Affleck pulled this exact move just last week, but he wasn’t the first and he certainly won’t be the last. It shouldn’t matter if it’s a loved one or a stranger on the street, we should have the emotional capacity to care for anyone facing sexual abuse regardless of personal ties.

When all is said and done, we must accept that a two-worded hashtag won’t affect any long-lasting change on its own. So what else can we do? For starters, we need to stop asking those who have experienced sexual assault to repeatedly rehash their stories. That —along with continuous activism against sexual predators and support for their victims — can hopefully result in the change we want to see.

 

At first I thought it was just another silly internet trend. Then I saw the reaction of the men in my feed. They are GENUINELY SHOCKED by the number of women posting they have been sexually harassed. That blows my mind. I don’t know a single female identified human that HASN’T been harassed at least weekly. I mean… do they live with that much privilege that they refuse to even see it or do they not understand what harassment actually is? Are they so unaware of what they are doing that they don’t get that it is harassment that damages us? Woke men… round up your unwoke brethren and school them. Take a stand. Raise your voice. —?— #metoo #handembroidery #feminism #feministart #feministfiberart #Feminist #craftivist #craftivism #stateofwomen

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Our contribution to moving the conversation beyond #MeToo is the following guide, detailing all of the resources available to English-speaking victims of sexual assault in Berlin. We encourage you to refer to the following resources.

If you’re reading this as a victim of any of the crimes discussed above: it’s not your fault, and you’re definitely not alone. There are countless hotlines, centres and resources here to help you through this, and so many support networks you can reach out to. Here are just a few of the ways Berlin-based women can get help.

If You’ve Just Been Assaulted

Doing anything after you’ve been assaulted can feel impossible, particularly if you’re in shock. However, it’s important to see a gynaecologist as soon as you can, get the morning after pill (if necessary) and book an STI test. The LARA website has a list of places you can visit for this (on the bottom right). Remember to take any clothing or accessories you were wearing when you were attacked with you. If possible, bag it up as soon as you can, to preserve any DNA traces that might be on them. 

Even if you think you don’t want to press charges, we’d recommend getting evidence collected within the first 72 hours, just in case. If you book an appointment with Charite’s “Gewaltschutz Ambulanz”, they will collect the evidence and keep it on file for a year, and you’ll be under no obligation to press charges. Talking to the police might be the last thing you want to do right now, but getting the evidence collected means that you can change your mind in future, and decide what you want to do when you’ve had more time to process the trauma. Appointments with the Gewaltschutz Ambulanz are available in 13 different languages, including English. If you do decide you want to report straight away, you can get in touch with the police, and they’ll arrange a medical examination and evidence collection for you. For more information on contacting the police, see the “Knowing Your Rights and Pressing Charges” section.

If You’re Being or Have Been Harassed & Are Seeking Support

The “bff” is the official federal organisation of rape crisis centres, and their website has a directory of over 160 rape crisis centres across Germany to choose from, including 54 in Berlin alone. We recommend LARA, which covers “sexual violence/rape, sexual harassment, sexual harassment in the workplace, sexual abuse, coping with trauma, ritual violence, digital violence, stalking and violence against sex workers.”

Frauenraum also has a directory of counseling centers and women’s shelters. They also provide resources for men who are seeking rehabilitation, and looking to put a stop to their own violent behaviour.

The most famous hotline is BIG, which offers support and counsel for victims of domestic violence and intimate partner violence. They also offer extensive info on their website about what victims of domestic violence can do, if you’re not ready to speak in person. BIG is open 8am-11pm every day, including weekends and holidays. For English-language counsel, they aim to get an interpreter to call you within 15 minutes.

For sexual harassment, violence and intimidation, there are a number of hotlines you can call. The Gewalt Gegen Frauen hotline is the official hotline overseen by the German Federal Office for Family, Senior, Women’s and Youth Affairs. It’s available 24/7, and can be reached at 08000 116 016. They provide service to those directly affected by abuse and harassment, as well as friends and family of victims. They are also committed to providing help “irrespective of social and ethnic origin, religion as well as sexual orientation and identity, and includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sexual and queer people (LGBTIQ).”

The “Frauenkrisentelefon” offers women counselling on any issues they they encounter, and you can also use their hotline to book counselling sessions in English, Persian or Dari.

If You’re Seeking Counselling After Being Harassed Or Assaulted

Even if the harassment is in the past, you can still receive counselling through many of the centers listed in the bff directory if it continues to affect you. You can use their search to filter by language and “specific offence” to find the centre that’s right for you.

You can also go through ACT Berlin, the directory for multi-lingual therapists in Berlin. Please note that most of these therapists do not accept public health insurance, and you will most likely have to pay out of pocket. KV-Berlin offers a directory of therapists covered by public insurance, but expect long wait times to be seen, as most of the practitioners are heavily booked.

Self-Defence Classes

Even for those who haven’t suffered from harassment, self-defence can offer peace of mind and a greater sense of security. The most popular service in Berlin is undoubtedly Pretty Deadly, which combines self-defence martial arts practice with other techniques including risk awareness and violence de-escalation. They offer a range of courses, including specialist courses for refugees, teens and workplaces. There are also dozens of non-sexual-violence specific martial arts schools in Berlin, which can be found here. Even if martial arts isn’t your thing, we would strongly recommend taking up some form of physical activity after being harassed or attacked. Exercise is the most effective natural way to combat the symptoms of depression and anxiety (some studies suggest it’s more effective than antidepressants in the long term). Exercise is also a great way to begin to take care of and reclaim your body after serious physical trauma.

Know your rights & pressing charges

Recent years have seen Germany update its legislation to ensure increased protection against sexual predators. In 2016, German lawmakers passed a “no means no” law, making it explicitly illegal for anyone to make sexual advances towards a person who has already said no. Additionally, tougher laws against groping have been put into place, and sexual predators can receive up to two years in prison for the crime.

If you’re unsure if what happened to you constitutes a crime, the European Institute for Gender Equality website outlines all of the laws in Germany (and other EU member states) relating to rape, harassment, assault and stalking. Alternatively, the hotlines and centres in the section above will also advise you about your legal rights.

If you’re looking to press charges, we would advise speaking to one of the rape crisis centres listed in the bff directory, as they can guide you through the process. However, it’s not mandatory to go through a centre, and you can contact the police directly at 110 (in case of emergency), or by going to the nearest police station. All sexual violence cases end up going to the “Abteilung für Delikte am Menschen, LKA 413” (roughly: Department for Offences Against People) at Keithstrasse 30 — so if you want to skip making multiple statements, you can contact them directly.

Practicing self care

The most important advice we can give you is to take care of yourself. Seek the help you need. Talk to friends and family, if you can. Build support networks. Don’t be afraid to get counselling to help you through this. Try meditation. Exercise, eat right, put yourself and your needs first. Do whatever you need to do to feel okay right now. Be kind to yourself.

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