Beatrice was looking for a student room in Groningen. She came across a scammer who got creepier and creepier. He had stolen someone’s identity online and became a real nightmare.
‘I am an exchange student of Law. Of course I needed a student room in Groningen, so I went on Facebook and reacted to a post of ‘Marie Bakker’ in the Facebook Group Free Housing Announcements in Groningen. He, because Marie soon turned out to be a man, offered a vacant student room in Groningen for students struggling to find a place. I sent him a message and he was like: Great, I will save it for you. You can stay here for around 500 euros. Let’s do a viewing. He asked for an introduction, which is normal for landlords. He also invited me to have lunch with him before the interview. But then, out of the blue, one of the tenants messaged me: Marie Bakker is a real person, but she does not live in Groningen at the moment.’
You can stay here for free if you go on a date with my friend
‘This was somewhat confusing because Marie had just suggested me to have lunch. Anyway, I sent some information about myself and a picture which showed me and a friend. It was a completely proper picture, nothing suggestive nor revealing. However, he started to react creepy, making sexual innuendos. You can stay here for free if you go on a date with my friend. He could be your boyfriend so you will not be cold during winter.
‘I said no explicitly and stressed that I was not looking for a relationship. But he got nastier and nastier. It was very disturbing and really scary. By then I had figured out this person was a scammer. And actually, one of the Facebook group members asked why I continued the conversation. My answer was: I want to get his number and address to give to the police because we can’t allow these people to get away so easily.’
Did you indeed contact the police?
‘I certainly did. I went to the station and I gave them the number and reported the whole story. Sexual violence against women starts like this, by catcalling and creepy online messages. It is best to stop this at the very beginning. And once it happens, you must not tolerate it. I hope the police took my story seriously, because this is a particular type of scammer. Usually scammers just want your money, this one went way beyond.’
‘Marie Bakker’ has a fetish for Asian women. I took a look at his Instagram account, and it is all about Asian nude models
‘I posted on Facebook what had happened to me. One of the group members messaged me once more, suggesting to delete the post. She sort of threatened me. I am a Law student, so you should delete it because everything that you say can be used against you. I reacted: I am a Law student too, I know my rights. It was really funny. I texted her asking for ‘Marie Bakker’’s number, but she did not reply.’
Why do you think the other tenant wanted you to delete the post?
‘People want to protect their security and privacy. But I think being open is for the greater good. Heavier sexual misconduct start in this way. And ‘Marie Bakker’ has a fetish for Asian women. I took a look at his Instagram account, and it is all about Asian nude models. He is especially interested in women from the Philippines. When I sent this picture of myself with this friend of mine, he asked me to send another one. Just of me this time. I was like: WTF?’
Do you think there is a cultural discriminatory element involved?
‘Absolutely. Only after seeing my picture showing my Philippian features he started to make sexual remarks. Prior to sending any picture, he talked like a normal landlord. But after he got my picture he tried to introduce me to his friend from Dubai looking for a girlfriend from the Philippines, and I thought: oh wow, so specific.’
These guys fantasize about these willing Asian girls with huge tits
‘It is very demeaning if the only prerequisite to be ones partner is to have a yellow skin. It is really scary. I think especially Asian women are perceived as cute, obedient and subordinated. These guys fantasize about these willing Asian girls with huge tits, like the ones appearing in Japanese comics. But these stereotypes don’t match with reality. I decided to report this because I was afraid that if this would happen to someone else, God forbids, something worse could happen to that girl. The thing is that some situations are really hard to recover from. If scammers get your money, you can fix that by working harder and earn something extra. But sexual harassment cannot be quantified, you can’t get back your confidence and peace of mind that easy.’
If something similar would happen to another girl, what would you suggest to her?
‘I would genuinely suggest her to go to the police. She should tell her friends about it. Nowadays, violence against women is preventable. We all know the protocol: don’t travel alone at night, and if you do, have your GPS on, send a text message when you have come home safely. If you are alone at night, keep your phone at hand to call a friend in case something might happen. Sadly, this is all we can do at the moment, apart from reporting it to the police of course. I hope we can change the way women are perceived and their position in society. And finally, stop this epidemic of violence.’
At this moment, did you find a place?
‘Actually, the day after the harassment, I met a girl from my home country in the Harmony Building. She was even from the same school I attended. Thankfully she saved my ass from homelessness. I was having lunch between my classes, she sat next to me and told me her roomie was leaving so I could move in.’