Extra police in Brussels Cinquantenaire Park after attempted rape
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Extra police in Brussels Cinquantenaire Park after attempted rape

Credit: Belga

Security in Brussels’ Cinquantenaire area will be improved after a woman was almost raped near the park in January, the mayors of Brussels-City, Philippe Close, and Etterbeek, Vincent de Wolf, announced on Monday.

The mayors have asked their respective police services, the Brussels-Capital Ixelles zone and the Montgomery zone, to strengthen security, and they will consult with the police, Brussels Environment and the prevention services to review and improve the safety of the park with better lighting, among other things.

“Women should not feel unsafe in our capital city,” Close and De Wolf said in a joint statement. “Women’s perception of public space is central to our security plan and to our city.”

The woman in question, Carla R., escaped an attempted rape on 22 January while she was walking home near Cinquantenaire park after dark, and started a petition – which has in the meantime reached almost 9,000 signatures – calling for better protection of women, through more police presence and better lighting, among other things.

“I am very grateful for the change,” Carla told The Brussels Times, adding that it is a step in the right direction. “But it is not enough. There should be better sexual education and an improved law, so the root of the problem can be tackled.”

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However, speaking to The Brussels Times last week, Etterbeek mayor Vincent De Wolf explained that municipalities cannot make any structural changes to the park, such as better lighting, on their own, as it is classified as a cultural heritage site, managed by the Region.

He added that he would be writing two official letters to the competent authorities, being constructor Beliris and Brussels Environment, to make it clear that changes were necessary.

In the announcement on Monday, De Wolf said that he was “particularly pleased” with the decision to go there with the relevant services, “so concrete decisions can be made on the quickest possible improvement measures.”

The police are aware of one official report of sexual violence in the area in 2020, but also stated that it is a known fact that many incidents are not reported, for a number of reasons.

The mayors stressed the importance of reporting any incidents, so the authorities can implement concrete changes based on facts, and allow victims to access the necessary care.

The Care Centre after Sexual Violence in Brussels has modified structures which offer medical care, psychological follow-up and the possibility of lodging a complaint with the police on the spot, with specialised personnel.

Maïthé Chini
The Brussels Times