Diemen student housing residents concerned after reports of sexual assault, intimidation

At least two women at the RXL student housing complex in Diemen have reported incidents of serious sexual assault and harassment in recent weeks, raising fears and concerns among other residents. The incidents have been reported to criminal investigators, police confirmed on Wednesday.

The incidents involved female residents living in the complex on Rode Kruislaan, which is managed by the housing corporation Lieven de Key. Women were reportedly chased by a man as they walked into their apartment building in May. In one case, the victim said she managed to break free from the man in a struggle. Another case reportedly involved rape, residents told NL Times.

About a thousand students live in the complex southeast of Amsterdam, which consists of five buildings. According to Akriti Saraswat, a 24-year-old resident, there were more than two incidents. She said several other frightening incidents have also happened both in and around the complex. “But not necessarily sexual in nature,” she noted.

Another student who contacted NL Times separately said that at least one student repeatedly reported safety concerns. After the most recent incidents, residents felt as if police “refused to investigate.”

A police spokesperson confirmed that two incidents were reported, including a “serious sexual incident” on May 9 in one of the buildings of the student complex. The police also received a report of a woman being harassed in another building of the complex during the overnight period from May 26 to May 27.

The police are now trying to determine if the two cases are related. The police spokesperson could not confirm information about additional incidents, saying that records showed that only the two cases mentioned were reported to them. She said that extra measures have been taken, such as increased surveillance in the area. The neighborhood police officer has also been in contact with residents about the incidents.

However, residents also expressed concerns about broken locks in the student complex. “It’s a super common thing in our building,” Akriti explained. While the lock is not defective when examined visually, it allows anyone to enter the building. “You can just pull the door and enter.”

Akriti, who studies Politics and Media at the University of Amsterdam, said the atmosphere has changed since reports of these incidents. “We are all really scared,” she said, adding that women in particular now feel unsafe in the complex. “It’s sad, but you’re scared of everyone on the street,” she added.”

Measures have been taken by a few female residents. Many intentionally return home before sunset, or refuse to take set foot into an elevator with someone they do not know. A WhatsApp group has also been created so that people can report when they arrive home at night, allowing others from the building to pick them up. “There is strong female solidarity; we need to look out for each other,” she said. She regrets these measures had to be taken. “I should be allowed to go out at any time.”

She told NL Times that the housing association first contacted the residents on June 6, one month after the first incident. A meeting was organized last week, where around 20 residents, mostly women, expressed that they felt unsafe in and around the buildings of the student complex. A police officer was present during the meeting, according to Akriti. However, she did not think it was very helpful, as they were primarily told what they could do to feel safer. “It’s not our mistake, but they make us feel like it’s our responsibility to take care of it.”

Contacted by NL Times, housing corporation Lieven de Key expressed their “shock” at these incidents. A spokesperson mentioned that even though cameras are installed at the entrances and lifts, along with new LED lighting, the recent events may trigger a re-evaluation of the current lighting arrangement to enhance safety measures. He also emphasized that the building manager maintains a presence in the complex’s office four days a week. “Residents can contact him with all their questions.”

However, Akriti said she believes these efforts fall short, as she feels residents are not being taken seriously. In particular, she felt a dismissive attitude from the police when people called to report what was happening. “Dutch police need sensitivity training,” she said. Akriti expressed her belief that this perceived insensitivity could be a deterrent for women when considering whether to report incidents to the police.

The police spokesperson expressed regret upon hearing that residents of the complex did not feel they were being taken seriously, and emphasized that both incidents were “taken very seriously.” She also wanted to point out that not only possible victims but also people who know more about the incidents, should feel free to approach the police. “We are calling on everyone to come forward and share their stories,” she said.

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