Judge makes alleged rape victim pay $37,000 fine

Judge says model agreed to sex with two men but objected to the act being filmed

Ms Gina-Lisa Lohfink's case has divided opinion deeply in Germany. The two men whom she accused of rape were instead found guilty of wrongly making and distributing the sex video and fined €1,350 (S$2,000) each. PHOTO: GINA-LISA LOHFINK'S FACEBOOK

BERLIN • A 29-year-old German model alleged that she was drugged and raped by two men who filmed the ordeal and then posted it online.

The woman pressed charges but a judge gave the men a light fine for the alleged assault while ordering the alleged victim to pay the equivalent of US$27,000 (S$37,000).

The judge - whose name was not disclosed - offered a nuanced argument for the surprise ruling.

The judge ruled that during the act, the alleged victim had said no to the filming but not to sex. Therefore, the model's claim of rape, the court said, was false. So, she was fined accordingly.

The verdict against Ms Gina-Lisa Lohfink is part of an increasingly heated debate on both sides of the Atlantic over the judicial handling of sexual assault. The light sentence given to a former Stanford University swimmer convicted of rape has sparked outrage in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Lohfink case - which has been making headlines ahead of an appeal hearing on Monday - has divided opinion deeply in Germany, and has added fuel to a "no means no" campaign, which seeks to broaden the definition of rape in Western Europe's most populous nation.

"They are turning me from a victim into an offender," Ms Lohfink, a former contestant on the TV series Germany's Next Top Model told Der Spiegel's online edition. "Do I have to be killed first? Will the legal authorities get it only then?"

In a country long criticised by women's rights groups for what they call relatively weak rape laws, polls show that more than 86 per cent of the public now favour stricter codes.

The current law states that saying no to sex is not enough to constitute rape - the victim must also show evidence of physical resistance.

Rights groups have argued that this definition has meant that many alleged rapists have gone unpunished. They cite, for instance, an alleged assailant accused of sexually assaulting a pregnant woman in 2012. The courts let him off because the victim - who said she feared for the safety of her unborn child - did not fight back.

Under pressure, German lawmakers are now moving to change laws to state that verbal resistance - for example, simply saying no - can be enough to make a case for rape.

Responding to a series of assaults on New Year's Eve - allegedly committed by suspects, including asylum seekers - the new laws would also punish aggressive groping by an individual or groups.

"We need a tightening of the sex crime legislation, so that finally, sexual self-determination will be protected unconditionally in Germany," Germany's Family Affairs Minister Manuela Schwesig told Spiegel Online this month, in reference to the Lohfink case. "Saying 'stop it' is clear enough," she added.

But critics insist that the move will only open the door to more false accusations.

"Of course, a woman needs to be protected by the law, even if she looks like a Barbie doll," said writer Svenja Flasspohler this week in the Suddeutsche Zeitung daily. But she added that there is a danger that "men are accused out of revenge... or regret for the consummated act".

Meanwhile, Ms Lohfink's punishment by the court has not only outraged critics, it has also generated a storm of accusations against her.

On social media and among outspoken pundits, she is being portrayed as a platinum-blond seductress and attention-seeking freak who has falsely accused two men of rape.

Others counter that Ms Lohfink - a media personality known for her scantily clad photos - is being unfairly treated specifically because of her free-spirited public persona.

The case goes back to 2012, when Ms Lohfink first accused two men, identified only as Pardis F. and Sebastian C., of rape.

The court did find the two men guilty of wrongly making and distributing the sex video and fined them €1,350 (S$2,000) each.

But it reserved its gravest punishment for Ms Lohfink, levying a fine of €24,000 on her for falsely accusing the men.

Ms Lohfink's attorney Burkhard Benecken criticised the court for interpreting her "no" to mean a request to stop only filming the act.

He said: "She didn't say, 'No, stop filming!' She said, 'No, no, no.' It's a daring theory to say that she referred to the filming."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline Judge makes alleged rape victim pay $37,000 fine. Subscribe