Photo by CHR!S (CC BY-SA 3.0)
There's a lot of talk of rape culture in Germany. As Terre de Femmes reports, only five to eight percent of sexual assaults are reported to the police. And of those, only 13 percent end in a conviction.
But on Monday, the Berlin district court passed down a harsh sentence in at least one rape case: a fine of €20,000 on Gina-Lisa Lohfink. Not on the accused rapists – on the accuser for "making false accusations".
It's being called the case "deeply dividing Germany" and it's reached the international press. The 29-year-old star, a former contestant on Germany's Next Topmodel, claims she was raped by two men in 2012. The two men had filmed a sexual encounter between the three of them and in the video she can be heard saying "no, no, no" and "stop it" again and again. The two men then tried to sell the video to the press – but it ended up on porn sites, even if it's not clear if the men uploaded it themselves. Soon e-mails were circulating with the subject: "Rape Video of Gina Lisa!! Brand new... "
Charges were filed – not just by Gina-Lisa, but also by other people who saw the video. But the prosecutor dropped the rape charges, claiming the "no"s in the video only refer to the filming, not to the alleged rape. The men were fined €1,350 for making the video – and Gina-Lisa was charged with making false accusations. This is not unusual in Germany: Some police departments say they consider 80 percent of rape accusations to be false. Yes, 80 percent.
Gina-Lisa's case is only in the press because she's famouns and hasn't given up. Despite the conviction, she has declared she will appeal and go to jail if necessary.
On the last day of the trial, the defense called Nathalie B. as a witness. She was the former girlfriend of Sebastian C., one of the two men in the Gina-Lisa case. This testimony was not mentioned in most of the articles in the German press or any of the English ones (that I've been able to find). At least Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper reported the testimony:
"Nathalie B., stylist in a beauty salon: 'This person is mentally not quite right,' she says of [Sebastian C.], with whom she lived together for almost a year. 'He is a beast when it comes to women.' [...]
'If he wanted something from me, and I didn't want to, I had to go through with it anyway.' [...] One time he locked her up at home for hours. At night he came to apologize, in a 'disgusting, slimy way.' 'I don't want to', she said when he pulled down her underwear. 'But he didn't care.'
There was supposedly another incident, after the end of the relationship. They met in the street. There was a fight. 'He dragged me to the ground by my hair.' She subsequently filed 14 charges with the police: assault, threats. The rape charges were dropped; she never heard back about the others."
Berlin judge Antje Ebner, in the words of the Tagesspiegel reporter, "watched in disbelief". Why did Nathalie B. stay in a the relationship if it was abusive?
Yes, Frau Ebner, why do women stay in abusive relationships? Why don't they go to the police and the courts the first time they experience violence?
One reason might be that judges – like you, Frau Ebner – refuse to believe them. Apparently there are even more accusations of rape against Sebastian C. But he has never been charged or convicted. He rapes, he walks, then he rapes again. What do we expect will happen next?
This brings us back to the original topic: rape culture. A culture that refuses to believe and blames women when they report their experiences – a culture that only worries about the possibility that men could be victims of false accusations.
It is confusing to people that the prosecutor and the judge, who are both certain that Lohfink is lying, are women. But these are women in an extremely male-dominated state apparatus. They must be under incredible pressure to prove that they are just like the Good Ol' Boys.
The only good news here is that Gina-Lisa isn't giving up and plans to appeal the conviction. There's no reason to expect that German courts will do much to stop sexual violence any time soon, seeing as how they've already enacted that "No means No" law this past summer. Only women and their allies will be able to change things. That's why #TeamGinaLisa was again protesting in front of the court again on Monday and chanted a slogan that I like a lot:
Macker gibt es in jeder Stadt. Bildet Banden, macht sie platt!
(There are sexists in every city. Form gangs and smash them!)