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Child sex abuse victims lack support in Germany

April 4, 2019

A special government inquiry on child sex abuse in Germany has demanded more dialogue on the subject after presenting its findings in Berlin. More than 80 percent of victims who spoke to the inquiry were women.

Stock photo of a child
Image: Imago Images/blickwinkel

German child abuse inquiry

German authorities still provide too little support to child sex abuse victims, a special government inquiry on the subject has found.

The inquiry, which was commissioned by the German government in 2016, presented its first findings in a report on Wednesday in Berlin. The 350-page report called for a more dialogue on the issue.

"We are in crisis when it comes to child protection in Germany," said Johannes-Wilhelm Rörig, the inquiry's independent commissioner. "Politicians must recognize that they have to realign themselves on this issue."

Read more: Sexual abuse of children in East Germany 'didn't fit the socialist, happy family model'

Initial report

Over the course of the three-year inquiry, around 900 people testified in confidential hearings and another 300 submitted written reports for evaluation.

Some 83 percent of the victims who participated were women and more than half suffered abuse within their family. Nearly half were younger than six years old when the abuse occurred, and a third of the victims are now in their 50s or 60s.

A government inquiry into child sex abuse in Berlin
The inquiry presented its findings in an initial report in BerlinImage: picture-alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen

In some cases, the abuse passed through generations in the same family, the inquiry found. Family memories of Nazi war crimes often led to abuse generations later.

The inquiry was originally intended to run for three years, but its mandate has been extended to allow it to investigate other areas of abuse and come up with concrete proposals for remedies.

Read more: Poland's Catholic Church admits clergy sexually abused hundreds of children

More support

Sabine Andresen, an education professor and the inquiry chair, said the report was not a representative study, but it did show how children experience sexual abuse, what the consequences are and why those affected are not always sufficiently helped.

According to the inquiry, many adults who were once victims of sexual abuse as children were left alone with their problems. They said there is a lack of recognition and support in dealing with them.

The inquiry demanded more permanently funded counseling centers and a greater range of therapy options financed by public health insurance. They also said that benefits under Germany's Victim Compensation Act should be more accessible.

Andresen said the inquiry had more work to do. For instance, she said the inquiry has not yet addressed disabled children in competitive sports, who are often reluctant to come forward. 

According to recent crime statistics, there were nearly 14,000 cases of child sex abuse reported last year. Experts believe however that the number of unreported cases is much higher.

Interview with a sexual abuse survivor

dv/amp (dpa, Reuters)

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