Every year on New Year's Eve, Vienna, Austria turns its city center into a massive party with food, music, and entertainment spread out along a winding "New Year's Eve trail." But this year, thousands of revelers will receive an unexpected party favor: a pocket rape alarm.
Austria's Interior Ministry will distribute 6,000 alarms to women on New Year's Eve, according to ministry spokesperson Karl-Heinz Grundboeck. The alarms emit a shrill noise that can scare off attackers and draw the attention of police.
"It's a national campaign aimed primarily at women on New Year's Eve," Grundboeck told AFP.
The campaign marks a year since the New Year's Eve attacks in Cologne rocked Europe. On January 1, a crowd of men attacked more than 100 women in Cologne, Germany. The crowd reportedly swarmed women on the street, grabbing at their breasts and genitals, and attempting to kiss and hug them.
Officials later described the attackers as Arab and North African in origin, fueling anti-immigration calls in Germany. In the aftermath, German legislators even tightened criminal laws to make deporting immigrants easier.
But research showed that the Cologne attack wasn't an isolated incident. According to a Canadian study, more than a quarter of all sexual assaults occur at large events, like New Year's Eve parties, music festivals, or even college homecoming events.
"We plan to increase awareness around these events and engage in prevention strategies in order to reduce the number of sexual assaults occurring," the researchers concluded.
And that seems to be exactly what the Austrian government is doing.