City Reveals a Bold New Plan to Keep Women Safe on New Year's Eve

December 20th 2016

Laura Donovan

One city is taking action to help prevent sexual assaults from taking place on New Years Eve this year by providing women with shrill pocket alarms.


A photo posted by Silvesterpfad (@silvesterpfad) on

Police officials in Vienna, Austria, will be distributing the shrills at Silvesterpfad, a popular New Years Eve event with concerts and other activities for attendees. This effort is meant to prevent incidents such as the New Years Eve 2016 sexual assaults and robberies in Cologne, Germany, where more than 1,000 women reported being victimized, according to The Independent. In January, it was reported by BBC News that the attackers were "men of mainly Arab and North African origin."

Some outlets, such as The Daily Caller News Foundation, have framed Vienna's plan as an anti-refugee statement:

Daily Caller News Foundation

"The cautionary maneuver comes after leaked German police documents revealed rampant sexual assault by refugees on New Year’s Eve in cities across Germany last year," Daily Caller News Foundation writer Saagar Enjeti wrote in his piece. "German police estimates reveal nearly 1,200 women were assaulted throughout Germany on Dec. 31, 2015, with nearly 2,000 men involved. The majority of the perpetrators were foreigners who had arrived in Germany in the last year, indicating they were likely refugees from war zones like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan."

Large events with lots of attendees might make people more vulnerable to attacks.

Sarah Fischer, an assistant professor of psychology at George Mason University who wasn't involved with the study, told Reuters Health in September 2015 that attacks can happen at large events because "people may not notice an assault taking place, or may not perceive it as an emergency, or may experience a diffusion of responsibility, since there are so many other people present."

A Canadian study from August 2015 published in the Emergency Medicine Journal looked at 204 cases of sexual assault and found that more than a quarter of these assaults took place at mass events and gatherings. The sexual assaults "peaked during New Year's Eve, Canada Day, [the week before university school-years start], and Halloween," the study states. "Young people, alcohol and drug consumption, and being unfamiliar with one's attacker were significantly associated with sexual assault at mass gatherings."

Study co-author Kari Sampsel told Reuters Health that people can avoid sexual assault and other attacks at big events by attending such gatherings in groups.

“[G]o with your friends, stay with your friends, keep an eye on each other, and know your limits for alcohol and drug consumption,” Sampsel said.

Because Silvesterpfad is said to attract tens of thousands of attendees, the distribution of shrill devices could potentially help a significant number of women this year. 

Similar efforts have been promoted to fight sexual assault in the United States, as well. In 2010, a Colorado woman named Lauren Battisa called on the University of Colorado-Boulder to distribute rape whistles to students to prevent sexual assault on campus, but her petition did not reach her goal of receiving 200 signatures. 

[H/T The Cut]