The Brussels North police zone has launched a project to educate both the public and police officers about street harassment in the city.
The project aims to promote awareness of street harassment, which ranges from unwanted whistling and sexist, homophobic or transphobic slurs, to following, flashing, and sexual assault.
“The Police zone Brussels North (Schaerbeek, Evere and Saint-Josse-ten-Noode) attaches great importance to the feeling of safety of everyone who moves in the public space, as well as to the reception of victims of gender violence,” it stated in a press release on Monday.
“It therefore wishes to create greater recognition of street harassment by raising awareness among the general public,” the police zone added.
A recent Plan International study showed that of the 3,000 girls and women surveyed in Brussels, Antwerp, and Charleroi, 91% said they had already been subjected to sexual harassment publically, but only 6% filed a complaint with the police.
To combat these incidents, an operation model originally developed by the Liège police zone will be adopted, which will mainly focus on raising awareness of the phenomenon among the general public and deploy trained police officers in the field.
A training course to educate police officers has been created as part of the project, which will begin in mid-September, in partnership with the non-profit organisation “Touche Pas à Ma Pote”.
Officers will be trained on how to make victims aware of their right to complain about street harassment and give them tips on how to feel safer in public spaces.
Alongside the training course, a brochure will be developed to inform everyone about this phenomenon and will detail the steps that witnesses can take to provide help in dealing with this phenomenon.
It will also make victims aware of their rights, the importance of filing a complaint, and the services they can contact in case of street harassment.
Additionally, a poster campaign will be launched to raise awareness around the theme of “consent” – the slogan reads “the difference between enticement and harassment is consent” – and to remind perpetrators of the law and the criminal consequences that they risk.
Several posters will also include the Victim Support Service, where victims of street harassment can go for help and support. Each police station will display a poster with the number of their Victim Support Service.
The project has been launched six months after the Brussels police launched another initiative to use plainclothes police officers to tackle the issue of sexual harassment on the streets.