Berlin is taking preemptive measures to combat sexual harassment and assault this New Year’s Eve. As partygoers gather at the iconic Brandenburg Gate, they will have access to a designated safe zone where victims can speak to psychologists if they’re assaulted or harassed, according to the Washington Post.
This initiative comes in the middle of a global movement raising awareness about sexual assault and harassment, and two years after Cologne’s New Year’s Eve celebration where hundreds of women were reportedly assaulted and/or robbed. According to leaked documents that a German publication published in 2016, more than 1,200 women were sexually assaulted on New Year’s Eve in various cities across the country.
"[Assaulted women] can stay here and calm down or speak to someone trained to offer psychological support,” Anja Marx, the spokeswoman of Berlin's New Year's Eve celebration, said to the Washington Post.
The safe zone will be staffed by the German Red Cross, according to BBC, which says the events from Cologne “heightened tensions in the country over the large influx of refugees and migrants.”
According to the Washington Post report, fewer sexual assault cases were reported last year after thousands of police were added to patrol the streets.
Reportedly, there are opponents of the move though. The chairman of Germany's police union, Rainer Wendt, rebuked the move to create a safe zone, according to the German newspaper The Berliner Zeitung.
"It says that there are zones of security and zones of insecurity," he said, and that it could lead to "the end of equal rights, free movement and self-determination.”
Brandenburg Gate is known as Berlin’s “party mile” and is an open-air party that stretches from Brandenburg Gate to the Victory Column. According to the Guardian, a similar initiative was put in place at Munich’s Oktoberfest, and it was a success.