As the Stanford rape case has sparked a flurry of debate over the way U.S. courts fail to punish rapists, in Germany, another case is igniting a movement to reform Germany’s retrograde sexual-assault laws.
German model and reality-TV star Gina-Lisa Lohfink claimed that two men drugged and raped her after a night out at a German nightclub back in 2012. According to German media, the men then posted a video of the assault online (which has since been removed), in which Lohfink can be heard saying “stop it, stop it” and “no.” Yet in a legal ruling earlier this month, the court found no evidence of rape and demanded Lohfink pay her attackers 24,000 euros for providing false testimony. Lohfink is currently appealing the decision.
The ruling prompted widespread outcry, with a number of activists and politicians calling for Germany to change the way sexual-assault cases are litigated. Right now, Germany has sexual assault laws that lag far behind most of the EU, in which merely saying “no” or “stop” isn’t enough to prove a lack of consent; there has to be a threat of physical violence.
As Jina Moore recently reported in Buzzfeed:
As far as the law is concerned, verbal consent isn’t really the issue. The law focuses instead on the overwhelming force of the perpetrator, requiring that there be a “threat of imminent danger to life and limb.” For a court to rule that a woman was raped, and the justice system to put a rapist behind bars, a woman must physically, exhaustively resist her perpetrator. If she can’t prove with her body — with bruises or other injuries — that she fought back, the assault isn’t really a crime.
After hundreds of women reported being sexually assaulted on New Years Eve in Cologne and other cities across Germany, there was a push to change the law to adopt a “no means no” standard, wherein verbally rejecting a sexual advance could be used as evidence of sexual assault.
While there’s still not much English-language reporting on the Lohfink case, The Hollywood Reporter claims that she has become the face of the “Nein heisst nein” (no means no) movement, and “activists and politicians in favor of the changes have called the Lohfink case an example of how the current system often fails, and even punishes, rape victims who come forward to testify.” Protesters are scheduled to demonstrate outside the Berlin courthouse when the Lohfink case resumes on June 27.
“When someone says ‘no,’ that has to mean ‘no,’ when someone says, ‘stop it,’ that ought to be clear enough for anyone,” Germany’s family minister, Manuela Schwesig, recently said on German TV. “We need to tighten up the laws on sexual crimes to protect everyone’s own sexual determination without conditions.”