This is the story of the campaign in English for non-Dutch speaking people and our international audience.
UPDATE: Our campaign was successful, Willem Elias was forced to resign from his position as Dean. Whether he will remain as a teacher will be determined in a meeting of the university board of directors. Thanks to everyone who helped out with the campaign, and solidarity forever!
Willem Elias, dean of the faculty of psychology of the Free University Brussels recently attacked a rape victim that filed a complaint against a famous politician. He accused her of making things up and said she was responsible for the suicide of the accused rapist.
Famous Belgian politician Steve Stevaert recently committed suicide. He had been accused of rape (there was physical evidence) and the trial would have started in the coming months. Only hours after his death people in the media already started blaming the victim.
Translation: We will miss you Steve. You were a fine man and very intelligent. The women… a weakness we understand. To the lady who is responsible for this, one thing. For rape you contact the police immediately or at the most the day after. Not three years later. And victims that are dropped off by the driver are very rare.
The university is not planning to sack the dean or force him to resign or retire. A half-hearted apology was expected to be enough (“i didn’t mean to offend…”). They didn’t expect the enormous amount of protest and media attention calling for action, with many people demanding the resignation of dean Willem Elias from the university.
This is not the first we’ve heard from Elias. Female students report he’s a sexist jerk who constantly talks about women’s breasts in the classes he teaches, and try to avoid being alone with him in small spaces. He’s made rape jokes before and refers to women as cunts. Frankly, that the university is letting this man be employed for any amount of time is a disgrace.
The question on many people’s minds is not “will he be forced to resign”, but “when will he resign”. However, the university protects their own. The Free University of Brussels is a university where senior staff are expected to be members of the lodge of freemasons. This is sort of a public secret. This group protects its members, so it’s possible the university will attempt to ride this out and try to ignore the media attention.
The fact that this incident is turning the university into the international laughing stock of the academic world might still be a problem however.
During our letter-writing campaign asking the university to take action, one courageous woman tried to write a letter but was too angry to type. She filmed herself, talking openly about her experience with rape and called again for the dean’s resignation. This led to the case being discussed in all the newspapers and major Belgian television channels.
We will continue our efforts to force the university to fire the rape apologist dean. We support all victims of violence; there is no room for victim blaming in our universities.
How can you help?
- We just launched a petition – please sign it and distribute it!
- You can email the head of the university: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Spread our action letter and/or the video message – twitter: hashtags #vub #willemelias and/or @VUBrussel
- If you live in Belgium, feel free to contact us for any direct actions we may be planning
- The story so far – in Dutch
- You can distribute this story to international media, all pressure willl help us get the dean fired! Feminist Current recently picked up the story – our thanks.