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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Theodorou

Women’s continued harassment in Groningen nightlife calls for new measures

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

Groningen clubbing area © Alexandra Theodorou

Most bars and clubs in the Groningen city centre take measures so that all partygoers can enjoy light-hearted fun. But for the female clientele, being leered at or touched without consent is something they’ve come to anticipate.

In the Netherlands as a whole, sex-related crimes remain alarmingly widespread. According to the Research and Documentation Centre (WODC), more than half of young women faced sexually transgressive behaviour in 2022.

And yet, Groningen itself is generally considered a safe city with a low rate of reported crime across the board.

For Tiara, a 22-year-old international student in Groningen, drinking and dancing to good music with friends is nearly always tainted by men’s “creepy” behaviour. Most often she is looked at up and down shamelessly and has to endure advances long after she expresses lack of interest.

Usually, she feels she can rely on her friend group for a sense of safety, especially when the group includes male friends who offer “an extra layer of protection.” But, it is not always possible for her to have company, especially at the end of the night when she makes her way home from the clubs.

Being followed home

Sometime a year ago, a man followed Tiara from the club area for several minutes. Noticing this she took additional turns and detours hoping she could lose him or that he’d get tired of going after her. Eventually, the man did stop.

“I was petrified for my life. I was ready to throw my stiletto at him. That experience alone had me shaking for a couple of days, even in the daylight.”

While it wasn’t the only time she was followed out of the club scene, this instance stuck with her the most. She and her friends now put more effort into keeping themselves and each other safe. Keeping only one earbud in when listening to music on the way home and sharing live location with the group are two of the most crucial strategies.

Even still, Tiara thinks that the sort of harassment she was met with is “pretty standard”.

“I have friends who have had way scarier experiences, like physical assaults or spiked drinks. So I’ve been really lucky.”

Changes are needed

Sebastian is a bartender at the club Copas. He confirms that sexual misconduct happens all the time during his shifts. The problem, he says, is that when the place is packed bartenders can’t see everything that’s happening on the dance floor. So, they mostly rely on the reports from women who are fed up, in which case they either warn the perpetrators or remove him from the building.

Shivani, a 23-year-old student in Groningen, is not satisfied with this type of policy. She shares much of the common female clubbing experience. In the last six months alone, she’s been flirted with, insulted for rejecting a man, and touched under her skirt. But what adds to her hesitation to trust the primarily male staff is a particular experience upon trying to enter a club.

“One time security didn’t even let me in until I danced to prove that I could dance. I walked away.”

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