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“We were surrounded.”

The 18 year-old victim of a New Year’s Eve attack in the German city of Cologne has come forward to speak about the horrifying ordeal she endured with 11 of her female friends at the hands of a group of up to 30 men.

The woman, who’s identified herself as Michelle, told German news program, N-TV the men surrounded her and her friends, repeatedly groped them, and stole their belongings from their pockets.

“At around 11pm we were at the main train station and wanted to travel on to see the fireworks and that was when we first noticed all these men standing around… Suddenly we were surrounded by a group of between 20 and 30 men.”

Michelle revealed the women linked arms for safety, but the men, who she described as “full of anger”, tried to pull them apart and drag them in separate directions. When this failed, they groped the young women dozens of times and stole their phones.

Michelle’s experience was not an isolated incident. Outside Cologne’s central railway station, around 1000 men, drunk and possibly on narcotics, were indiscriminately throwing firecrackers at each other, and carrying out other attacks on women. Women were also reportedly attacked in Hamburg, Helsinki, and Stuttgart in a similar fashion, but those in Cologne were the most prolific.

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Assault victim Michelle described her ordeal on German news program, N-TV.

In total, 118 women reported attacks, with three quarters of them involving sexual violence. At least two accusations of rape have been made, and more are feared to remain unreported.

According to victims, eye-witnesses and police, the vast majority of the attackers were of Middle Eastern or North African appearance.

This has sparked further public outcry at chancellor Angela Merkel, who was responsible for allowing 1.1 million asylum seekers to enter the country in 2015. Although German authorities have vehemently warned against linking attacks to the influx, a police report leaked to two German newspapers revealed otherwise.

Of the suspects detained, one man is reported to have grinned as he ripped up his residency permit and told a policeman, “You can’t do anything to me. I’ll just pick up another one tomorrow.”

Another is reported to have said, “I’m Syrian. You need to be nice to me. Ms Merkel invited me here.”

A police officer on the scene told German newspaper Bild he hadn’t seen anything like it in almost three decades.

“The very high number of migrants was striking… The forces met a level disrespect, I have not seen in 29 years of service.”

City police chief Wolfgang Albers also asserted the numerous suspects detained were of Arab or North African appearance. Another policeman on duty in the square asserted the same thing, and of the 16 suspects still in custody, all are from Afghanistan and Syria.

In the Western world, rape and sexual assault are culturally perceived as unacceptable. However, this is not so in other parts of the world. The awkward truth we seem to have trouble coming to terms with is in parts of the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and other developing countries, rape is simply a way of life. In the Congo, rape is so common it is considered the inherent consequence of being a female.

Genital mutilation and rape have been epidemics in Africa for hundreds of years. In the Middle East, women are often stoned to death for their own rape, as the ‘evil in women’ is said to have tempted the helpless man to follow his base desires.

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In Nigeria, girls as young as four are subjected to female genital mutilation, a practice used to exercise control over a woman’s sexuality.

Perhaps the most chilling example of the ingrained acceptance of sexual violence is the brutal 2012 gang rape of a young woman in Delhi, who was beaten and raped to death in the back of a moving bus because the culprits deemed the fact she was out after 9pm with a male friend legitimate grounds. The men took turns, and also penetrated and beat her with a metal pole.

The attackers showed no remorse, and collectively asserted she was to blame for not acting ‘as a woman should’. One of the perpetrators, said to have been the most violent, was 17. He allegedly pulled out her intestines with his bare hands.

Rape within refugee camps is another uncomfortable truth, oft ignored. Of the 4000 inhabitants of the Calais camp, only 10 per cent are women. As a result, rape and forced prostitution rings permeate everyday life. Women have taken to sleeping in their clothes, and ceased taking trips to the bathroom at night as a precaution. Some even refuse to leave their tents, living in fear of the 3600 men surrounding them.

Rape has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power; men punishing women for not being men. The issue of rape culture in the Western world; offensive song lyrics, derogatory films, cat-calling, and behaviors that reinforce the acceptability of rape and sexual assault, pales in comparison to the nonchalant nature of so many countries to the widespread violation of its most vulnerable citizens.

But what can we do to solve the problem, especially as, in the name of political correctness, so many Westerners refuse to acknowledge it? The answer, sadly, is very little. Eradicating the complacency of violence against women from billions of people is a gargantuan task. The fight has to come both from within those cultures, and outside, by making their difficult message heard. Incidents like the Cologne sex attacks are a harsh reminder of the fact when it comes to sexual violence, speaking up and speaking out – not remaining silent – is the answer.

Image dailymail/Jamie Wiseman.