Following the petition launched in January by a Spanish expat who narrowly avoided being sexually assaulted, concrete measures are being taken to improve safety in and around Cinquantenaire Park.
“Action really is being taken to improve security and put a stop to sexual assault in the Cinquantenaire Park in Brussels,” says Brussels MP Carla Dejonghe.
Carla R who moved to Brussels from Barcelona, took to the media and to Change.org following a terrifying incident she experienced near Cinquantenaire in January. She filed a report of attempted sexual assault with the Montgomery zone police department.
She said that the police were well aware of the problem in the neighbourhood but that they “didn’t have the resources” to do anything about it. This was unacceptable to Carla, who launched a petition with a list of demands.
“This, I believe, is not a question of resources, but of priorities,” she wrote in the petition. “If Brussels – the heart of the European Union – cannot protect women from being raped on a monthly basis in an area of the city that is quite literally on the doorstep of the EU quarter, where government officials work every day, what hope is left for women’s safety elsewhere?”
The petition has since gathered more than 11,100 signatures. Carla was soon invited to meet with the equal opportunities secretary and to provide a written address to parliament.
A committee has now been formed made up of police, crime prevention services and the Environnement Brussels agency, which is responsible for the upkeep and security in the park. Spearheaded by Brussels MP Carla Dejonghe, it will meet several times a year to exchange information.
Representatives from the committee joined the mayors of Etterbeek and Brussels-City for a site visit last month and are now working on concrete measures to enhance safety.
Brussels MP Carla Dejonghe ©Courtesy VGC
A plan will be drawn up to improve lighting in the area, and maps of the park will be placed at several entrances to people know where to find infrastructure and where all of the 26 entrances to the park are located. The signs will also show where the nearest police station are located and the shortest routes to get to them.
Shrubbery in the park will also be trimmed back to allow maximum visibility. Finally, police from the Ixelles and Montgomery zones will work together with Environnement Brussels on a patrol schedule to that a constant presence in and around the park is guaranteed.
Dejonghe points out that while police told Carla R that such incidents regularly occur in the neighbourhood, almost no official reports of sexual assault are filed. “If Carla R had not started a petition, this incident would have never come to our attention,” says Dejonghe’s office in a statement. “We urge everyone to file a complaint about any assault incident, however minor it may be. By doing so, the police can try to track down the perpetrator, and you help ensure that others will not have to go through the same thing. Sexual violence can never be justified. The responsibility lies only with the perpetrator.”
Photo top: (c)Loan Silvestre/BELGA
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