Dean of Brussels University blames rape victim

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.

Naar aanleiding van de beschuldiging van verkrachting van Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Willem Elias again, making fun of the woman who accused Dominique Strauss-Khan. “It isn’t rape when you yell surprise”. Someone get this man fired, stat.

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.

One woman shows more courage than all of the university personnel combined.

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?

10 gedachten over “Dean of Brussels University blames rape victim”

  1. Een franstalige versie zou meer dan welkom zijn. Er verschenen al wat artikels en ook op FB en Twitter neemt de aandacht toe. Echter, ze hebben momenteel nog geen toegang tot de meer gedetailleerde en schokkende informatie in het bovenstaande artikel….

  2. Hi, the victim in the Stevaert case went to the doctor immediately and got evidence then. So that proof / confirmation was kept for three years – i’m guessing indeed not the physical evidence, which would go bad after so long, (let alone marks /bruises) but it’s the papers the doctor made confirming this that were kept. But the victim didn’t dare to go to the police back then and waited three years.

    That’s as far as we know, because the case didn’t go public and now never will. Since the perpetrator died the case will not be researched any further, which is not so helpful to the victim who probably wanted a better resolution.

    (Sorry for my English, I can’t seem to get the hang of it today)

  3. But if that’s all we know how do we know exactly what happened? Did they do tests yet to show it was him and it was rape? Forgive me for not understanding maybe something is getting lost in translation.

    What did the dean do to get fired? All it shows here is he said it wasn’t true. Sorry for all the questions I just want to understand.

  4. I don’t have any more information about the Stevaert-case. Nothing more was released / leaked… As feminists we typically assume the victim is speaking the truth. Researching is the job of the police and judges, we simply support the victims.

    In reality, research shows that there are almost no false rape allegations. There’s like 1 false allegation for every 1000 cases.

    As for the dean: he’s been harrassing students for a long time. He has also repeatedly objectified women, made many jokes about rape… There were a lof of complaints filed against him.

  5. I am a feminist and I have been raped so I know how hard it is, but some people do lie. Even if 1 in 1000 is false that’s still thousands a year!

    In my country we just had a case of false accusations and it makes people take those of us who really have been raped less seriously and even more likely to think we are lying.

    Yes researching is the job of courts and police but to publicly say this is true if it turns out not to be true it is so much worse for rape victims! We can’t just blindly believe what people say without proof because anyone can say anything.

    I still don’t understand why the dean was fired. What kind of harassment has he been doing and what do jokes and objectifying women have to do with his job? Again sorry for all the questions but I really don’t understand this whole situation it all seems very strange

  6. I don’t get the confusion anymore… the dean, Willem Elias, teaches classes almost daily. Many female students are afraid to be alone with him in confined spaces, and he says things like “It’s not rape if you yell surprise!”, “A cunt can’t be wasted by one man”, “Real victims don’t wait before pressing charges”, and so on and so on.

    A dean has an important position and we simply expect better of them. A dean cannot be a rape apologist who blames victims. What about all the female students who go there, what about the victims, can we ever feel safe or understood in a faculty like that? No. That’s why he had to go.

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