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Sexual harassment during DW broadcast a 'misunderstanding'

Emily Sherwin Mosow
June 22, 2018

The man who grabbed and kissed a DW reporter during a live broadcast has apologized to her after footage of the incident went viral.

WM-DW-Reporterinnen-Belästiger entschuldigt sich

Man apologizes after grabbing, kissing DW reporter

The video of DW reporter Julieth Gonzales Theran being harassed shocked viewers worldwide. During a live broadcast from Moscow on the opening day of the World Cup, a man ran up, kissed her on the cheek — and seemingly grabbed her breast. Gonzales Theran was reporting for DW’s Spanish news channel at the time.

Now the man in question has reached out to DW in order to apologize to Gonzales Theran. During a Skype conversation, Ruslan, who preferred not to reveal his last name, offered the journalist his "most profound apologies," adding that he hopes she "will never face another such incident in [her] career."

Ruslan insists what happened has been "misinterpreted" and called it a "misunderstanding." He says the incident was part of a bet with his friends that he could kiss a reporter live on air. "I thought I put my hands on her shoulders, but apparently I missed a little and touched her chest with my left hand. I would not have believed it myself, but having looked at the video I realize that it looked ambiguous from the side," he explained.

After the apology, he told DW that he didn't chose to approach Gonzales Theran for  her "gender, age, nationality — or for the channel. She just happened to be nearby."

Viral upset

Julieth Gonzales Theran agreed to speak to Ruslan on Skype from a reporting trip in the Russian city of Kazan. She told him that "what happened was unacceptable and disrespectful" but that she accepted his apology and appreciateed that he reached out.

"I refuse to be a victim, I just want to continue with my job, reporting about football. […] I just want to close this chapter and I wish you the best."

The video, posted on Twitter by DW's Spanish service immediately after the incident just over a week ago, has gone viral. The social media response has been mixed. Some commenters on DW Espanol's Facebook page described what happened as trivial, with one commentator writing: "A simple kiss on the cheek and they're acting as if she was dealing with a rapist." Others pointed out that the kiss was a form of harassment because it took place without consent.

Read more: Saudi Arabia introduces law banning sexual harassment

Bibiana Steinhaus, Germany's first female Bundesliga referee described the behavior as "unacceptable." She told DW: "I feel for her, because this type of attack has happened several times in the past. Don't kid yourself that similar misogynist things do not happen."

A lesson learned?

Ruslan, the man behind the incident, explained that he was shocked when he watched the video back. "I imagined that my sister could have been in her place – or my mother – I wouldn't have liked that at all," he told DW.

"My conclusion is that it is important to respect people's personal space. You can only hug someone with their consent."

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