German Mayor Says Women Should Stand Away From Strangers To Avoid Being Attacked

"Asking victims to change their behaviour means offenders won't need to change theirs, wrong approach to preventing crime."

The mayor of a German city where scores of women were allegedly threatened or assaulted on New Year's Eve is facing criticism for comments she made about the attacks.

According to the Guardian, Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker said women should avoid standing too close to strangers or traveling alone to avoid being assaulted.

“There’s always the possibility of keeping a certain distance of more than an arm’s length -- that is to say to make sure yourself you don’t look to be too close to people who are not known to you, and to whom you don’t have a trusting relationship," Reker told a reporter who asked about how women could protect themselves. She also said women should stay in groups if possible, "even if you're in a party mood."

Some people felt Reker's answer put too much of the onus on victims.

Some users responded with the hashtag #einearmlaenge (at arm's length).

According to The New York Times, Heiko Maas, Germany's federal minister of justice, tweeted: "I don’t think much of tips for behavior for women, such as ‘an arm’s length.' Not women are responsible, but the perpetrators.”

At least 90 women reported being threatened, robbed or attacked in Cologne on New Year's Eve. Many said they were sexually assaulted. According to police, the incidents were coordinated by a large group of men.

Reker herself is an attack survivor. She was stabbed in October, reportedly for her support of refugees. She is also the city's first female mayor.

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