In 2012, Gina-Lisa Lohfink, a German model and celebrity, reported to the police that she’d been drugged and raped by two men. She was unable to recall the events of the night, but learned of what happened two weeks later when she saw a video of her rape posted online. Throughout the video, Lohfink can be clearly heard saying, “Stop it, stop it,” and “no.”
Despite video evidence of the crime, Lohfink’s testimony, and her protestations during the rape, the judge ruled in favour of the two men, claiming that no rape had occurred. He also ruled against Lohfink, fining her 24,000 euros for making “false accusations.” She appealed the decision and her next court date set for June 27th.
German feminist group Initiatitive für Gerechtigkeit bei sexueller Gewalt (Initiative for Justice in Cases of Sexual Violence) has rallied in support of Lohfink and against the German Criminal Justice System. They will be protesting outside of the courthouse in Berlin on the 27th, in solidarity with Lohfink and all survivors of sexual violence.
I spoke with German feminist Manu Schon, part of the organizing team, who told me that more than 900 people are expected to attend, and that the event inspired organizational efforts from many local women outside of Initiative for Justice as well. She says:
“Now is the time to put as much pressure as possible on politicians. It’s our historical chance. Whatever new rape law is passed now, we will have to live with what we get for quite awhile.”
Since the mass sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany, public outcry from women highlighted the need for new rape law — the majority of assaults committed did not meet the criterion for prosecution under current rape law (which requires that the victim be in “imminent danger” of risk to life and limb, and that they fight back against their attacker). Nearly 2,000 victims reported they were assaulted that night, but several months later, there have been zero sexual assault convictions related the event. After Cologne, the German government expressed their commitment to updating German rape law, but still have not produced any new legislation.
The Initiative for Justice demands that the German Government implement the 2012 Instanbul Convention, which Germany signed but has not yet ratified. It states: “Consent must be given voluntarily as the result of the person’s free will assessed in the context of the surrounding circumstances.”
Schon, who has served as a jury member in several rape cases, explains that, within the German Criminal Justice System, it is standard practice for defense lawyers to ask victims of rape how many sexual partners they’ve had in order to determine her “credibility level.” Schon said Lohfink’s case, while one of the few highly publicized incidences of a woman being charged for “false accusations,” is not unique. Many other women have come to the Initiative for Justice claiming that they were also charged for “false accusations” when their rapists were found not guilty. The punishment for women making “false accusations” can include jail time.
It seems absurd for women to be punished for seeking justice after being assaulted. Though the German “false accusation” law is not designated for sexual violence cases alone, it appears that it is primarily applied to rape cases, and only being used to punish women. Lohfink’s attorney, Burkhard Benecken, said, “Fewer women are going to end up going to the police for help in the future if there’s a risk that their view of the incident could be turned against them and they could face charges.”
One of the men Lohfink is fighting in court was found guilty for a minor copyright violation and injury of the private sphere for filming the video and posting it online. The video was viewed millions of times, revictimizing Lohfink with each viewing, yet he was fined only 1,350 euros. The man who committed this heinous act was fined a fraction of what Lohfink was fined for “making accusations.” This discrepancy in punishment sends the message that women’s accusations are worse than the actual assaults. The justice system failed Lohfink further, as the video still remains online on many platforms. Porn media giant PornHub profited off the video for two years before removing it after media coverage led to public outrage.
Schon says feminist protest in Germany is needed immediately, in order to use this injustice to effect change. The world will be watching on June 27th to see whether Lohfink’s charges will be removed or whether the German court will rule in favour of the practice of “false accusation,” further discouraging women from seeking justice for their rapes.