Esmeralda Labye, a Belgian reporter for news organization RTBF, is telling the story of being assaulted while reporting on the Cologne carnival. As she was reporting live, on-air, she was approached by two or three “wretched and cowardly” men, one of whom reached over and grabbed her breast. In a blogpost on her employer’s website, she describes the assault: “I was focusing on the broadcast, and then I felt a kiss on my neck…Almost immediately, a young German sings in my ear: ‘Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir? [Would you like to sleep with me tonight?]’. Then, I feel two hands rest on my shoulders. I see the person behind me mime an obscene gesture, a sexual practice that has no place on camera.” While she tried to ignore the men and continue doing her job, things escalated: “It was at that moment that one of three men around me touched my chest. At that moment, I lost my temper. Knowing I had finished the broadcast, I turned around to tell them in English, ‘Do not touch me!’ The three didn’t seem to understand why I got angry, but they left without a word.” Labye and her cameraman later reported the incident to the police and received a formal apology from the city. The RTBF decided not to post footage of the incident on their website, out of respect for the journalist.
During the first night of carnival in Cologne, 22 incidents of sexual assault in “varying degrees of seriousness” were reported to the police. This is twice as many as the year before, which police spokeswoman Dorothee Goebel believes is due to increased public awareness since the slew of sexual assaults in the city on New Year’s Eve. “The way people file criminal complaints has changed since New Year’s Eve, and that’s good,” she said.