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A new wave of high-profile #MeToo allegations has shocked the Netherlands – and this time the government says it is taking action to tackle sexual harassment.
The Dutch government on Tuesday appointed Mariëtte Hamer as commissioner for combating inappropriate behavior and sexual violence, a new role in which she is responsible for proposing a plan to combat sexually inappropriate behavior and sexual violence.
Hamer, who is the chair of the Economic Social Council — a government advisory board — and a former Labor Party legislator (PvdA), said she expects an increase in reporting “as we begin conversations about transgressive behavior.”
“In other countries where such a conversation has already been started, you see these numbers going up first and then going down,” she said in an interview with Dutch media.
When the #MeToo movement hit the Netherlands in 2017, “there was a lot of outrage, but it didn’t go any further,” said Willy van Berlo, program manager at Rutgers, a research organization. Dutch research that supports young people. on sexual health and rights in the Netherlands and around the world.
At the time, “there was the occasional incident that grabbed the headlines, but the attention faded again,” van Berlo said, adding that “the Netherlands apparently needed a major second wave of reporting in their own country to raise awareness: transgression is a major social problem and something has to change in the culture.
Other countries, including France and Denmark, have seen an increase in sexual assault cases in recent years – years after the #MeToo movement began in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the numerous cases of sexual harassment that were later revealed.
The spike in new allegations was sparked by a YouTube documentary about bullying and sexual abuse surrounding popular TV show ‘The Voice of Holland’, which details a long list of allegations of sexual abuse, inappropriate comments and even a case of rape.
The TV series scandal is not the first time that sexual abuse has made headlines in the Netherlands. A prominent Dutch casting director was accused of widespread sexual misconduct in 2017, and the country has seen cases in the world of sports and politics.
But none of these had as much resonance as “The Voice of Holland” scandal, according to counselor trainer Freek Walther. partly because this case involved some of the most well-known celebrities in the Netherlands.
Since the allegations came to light this month, Dutch organizations and charities said they had seen an increase in calls reporting sexual abuse.
Police said in a statement on Monday that their sex crimes teams were “busier than usual.” And the Sexual Assault Center, a national organization that helps victims of abuse and misconduct, said the number of calls it received increased by 508%.
On Sunday, Marc Overmars, a former Dutch national football team player turned senior manager at the country’s biggest club Ajax, resigned and apologized for what the club called a “series of inappropriate messages sent to several female colleagues.
New charges also hit Hamer’s own PvdA, with one of its MPs, Gijs van Dijk, resigning and apologizing following accusations of inappropriate behavior.
One of the women accusing van Dijk of inappropriate behavior said she reported his actions to the police and party leadership as early as 2019.
Cornelia Klaster, who was chair of a PvdA committee on poverty, said she had frequent meetings with Van Dijk who, despite being told not to, hugged her so tightly that she ended up with bruises on her chest.
An investigation by an external research firm found his complaint to be without merit, but Klaster said there was a senior member of the PvdA on the research firm’s supervisory board, rendering the investigation worthless .
Party leader Lilianne Ploumen said on Thursday that the 2019 investigation had been “thorough and independent”, but added that the case would be part of a new investigation into van Dijk’s behavior.
Over 100,000 people report a sexual assault each year in the Netherlands, 90% of whom are women. Two in three women said they had been harassed on Dutch streets in 2021, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office.
“In a society that is praised for its open and tolerant attitude and known for its progressive approach to sex education in schools, news of sexual abuse allegations comes as no surprise to us,” van Berlo said.
“Our approach to sex education has paid off; it has led to low numbers of teenage pregnancies and abortions. However, this approach in schools is not sufficiently focused on reducing sexual violence and exposing prejudicial views on gender,” she said.
“In this area, the Netherlands and many other countries still have a lot of work to do.”