Cologne’s mayor advises women to keep assailants “at arm’s length”

“About this far.”
“About this far.”
Image: Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay
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Cologne mayor Henriette Reker made a controversial proposal today (Jan. 6) in the wake of a mass sexual assault on New Year’s eve: A code of conduct for women to help them avoid sexual assault, including advice to stay ”one arm’s length distance” away from strangers.

Critics accused the mayor—who was stabbed in the neck by a man shouting about immigrants in October—of putting the responsibility on women to avoid sexual assaults.

The city is reeling from an apparently coordinated attack last weekend, in which hundreds of men, reportedly of North African and Arab descent, sexually attacked about 90 women in front of the city’s main train station during New Year’s festivities. The horrific incident has inflamed sentiment against the more than 1 million refugees and migrants that Germany has taken in in the last year, many of them from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

By Wednesday morning (Jan. 6), #einearmlaenge (“one arm’s length”), was one of the top trending hashtags on Twitter Germany. Some social media users sarcastically wished they’d been notified of this simple prevention method.

Police have identified only three suspects in the mass sexual assault, according to the interior minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.