Sexual violence expert slams VUB: “How many victims still have to fall?”

Updated: 06-14 2022 – 14:18

second A storm of criticism erupts on the Pleinlaan campus over the way VUB handles offensive behavior and sexual violence. This time, the 21-year-old son of a diplomat killed 15 victims. Once again, VUB reacts very slowly and sluggishly, according to expert Daniel Zucker. “How many victims are there?”

“There was a boy at our direction who assaulted and abused several girls. Situations where some girls wake up dressed differently than the night before. Girls who don’t remember what happened because they were drugged with alcohol.” in latest news A sophomore gives testimony about the stories she collected about sexual violence by a 21-year-old international VUB student. She went to the VUB hotline in October of last year because her friend was assaulted.

Turns out her friend isn’t the only victim. In November she returned to VUB with four degrees. “The student has been told that more detail is needed, but the job of the hotline or the disciplinary committee is to collect it, not collect it from the hands of the victims,” ​​says psychologist and sexual assault expert Danielle Zucker.

fifteen certificates

However, the girlfriend of one of the victims went to work and collected fifteen testimonies for the file, five of which were anonymous, they also spoke to Zucker. Victims came to me because I just wrote a book about rape. We sat together to build the file.”

The facts date back to 2020 and 2021. The 21-year-old student, who is the son of a diplomat, is said to have been mainly drinking international students before abusing them in his student room with the door closed. It was also said that two men were among the victims. On December 6, the file ended up in the hands of the vice-chancellor. And imposed at the end of January some precautionary measures. The diplomat’s son is no longer allowed to drink alcohol on campus nor has he been allowed to contact the alleged victims.

© Kevin van den Banhuizen-Pros

† VUB Pleinlaan Campus. “I didn’t get the impression that the students were safe on campus,” says psychologist and sexual violence expert Danielle Zucker.

“VUB underestimates the facts”

In the end, the file will be considered by the VUB Disciplinary Committee, and a ruling will be issued on May 20. The student receives the second most severe punishment: except for his exams, he is no longer allowed to be physically present on campus. “What the VUB doesn’t say is that the sentence is only valid for one year. This means that the boy will be back on campus next year, while most of the victims have left VUB or even Belgium. Others started taking online classes out of fear,” Zucker said. One of the victims was in VUB and she had panic attacks every time she saw the perpetrator.”

According to the psychiatrist, all the victims still feared reprisals. The diplomat’s son was said to have threatened legal action with some of the victims. “They are scared and don’t even dare to file a police complaint,” Zucker said. According to her, there are a lot of bugs in VUB, but not only there. “We see the same trends in French-speaking universities, but also, for example, in the United States. Scientific research shows this as well, but the people at VUB don’t want to know. This is unacceptable. And the university is more concerned with its image and wants to show that the campus is a place. safe, but she does not realize the seriousness of the facts.”

“I was invited to do an interview with the vice president of a French-speaking university,” Zucker says. “I was told these perpetrators are normal boys, not predators, who make mistakes. This person gets a lot of experiences at that age, including sex, and that things go wrong at Sometimes. People don’t want to be punished so hard, because that would jeopardize their future. I was very angry at the time and had the impression that the students weren’t safe at all.”

Zucker also decries how slow VUB has handled this file. The same criticism came in after a VUB teacher was fired at the end of last year for infringing behaviour. That process took nearly a year. “It’s exactly the same now. They don’t learn and they don’t want to. The file gained momentum when it hit the media, otherwise it will continue. VUB downplays the facts and downplays them.”

There is no external disciplinary body

The expert also believes that the disciplinary committee should have issued the most severe penalty, which is exclusion. The problem is that the disciplinary committee is made up of students and lecturers, people who have no knowledge of the subject. They do not know what is on the minds of the perpetrators and victims. They don’t know that the average age at which perpetrators start is 13 and that the risk of rape and sexual crimes starting again during their college years is very high. For such facts, every university must have an external, completely independent and professional structure.”

This is also what VUB student Sanne* thinks. She was raped in a room on campus by another student in October last year and also reported to VUB. “Professors and students of our time are the ones to judge, but I don’t think they are able to make statements about such complex facts. An outside body would be more professional with more insight into the perpetrators and the psychological consequences for the victims,” she says. “I have never dared to go to campus anymore and have only set foot twice since this happened. The second time I encountered the perpetrator and it was disastrous. Campus is not a place where you can walk around as a victim. You are blocked, there is a culture where victims do not believe.”

September 22, 2020: Students at VUB at the start of the new school year, with social distancing and mouth mask

© Kevin van den Banhuizen-Pros

† “Campus is not a place where you can roam as a victim,” says VUB student Sanne. She was raped by another student in October.

Sane finds it “appalling” that the diplomat’s son has not been fired. “What does an offender have to do to be banned from campus? How far does someone have to go?”, don’t just wonder. In addition to an external disciplinary body, Zucker also advocates a European or international registration in which students who commit such crimes are registered on campus. “There should be no tolerance at all. How many victims are there?”

“VUB is working on better procedures”

VUB itself only wants to respond in writing and confirm that the 21-year-old was first given some precautions before the disciplinary committee decided that he should not be in VUB except for his exams. “If such a student does not comply with the disciplinary sanction imposed, he will be disqualified from VUB for a period of three years,” said VUB spokesperson Sicco Wittermans. “Despite this severe punishment and the correct completion of the procedure, the VUB is fully aware that the process for victims is extremely difficult and emotionally frustrating.”

“That is why, since this school year, the VUB has been working on a new procedure and running the hotline and especially on guiding victims through the process,” it appears. The university has already realized that the current procedures are insufficient after the stories about the infringing behavior of last year’s lecturer. Until then, new measures have been announced. It will take effect in the next academic year. “Through these actions, VUB wants to ensure the safety and personal integrity of all its students, while speeding up procedures and providing a better framework for victims.”

*Sani’s pseudonym

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