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German police record more cases of child sexual abuse

July 8, 2024

German police have reported a significant rise in cases of sexual abuse of children and adolescents. The increase in cases related to the sharing of images of abuse was particularly striking.

A symbolic image of a young child, pictured in such a way they can't be identified, holding up their hands in a defensive posture.
Police said the rising case numbers were likely attributable in large part to improved reporting and expanded policing optionsImage: imagebroker/IMAGO

The number of known cases of sexual abuse of children and adolescents in Germany increased significantly last year, according to a police report published on Monday.

Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) revealed that, in the case of the production and distribution of images of abuse, the number of cases had more than tripled in the past five years. 

How do the figures break down?

The number of registered cases of sexual abuse against children increased by 5.5% in 2023 compared to the previous year, to 16,375 cases.

Within that, there were 18,497 victims of child sexual abuse, about three-quarters of them being girls. More than half of the victims were proven to have had a previous relationship with the suspect.

Of the 11,900 people registered as suspects in the cases, 94% were male. 

In the same period, 1,200 offenses were recorded in which adolescents aged 14-17 were sexually abused — up by 5.7% on 2022. 

"The high share of suspects who are themselves children or adolescents, again at around 30%, is noteworthy," the BKA also said.

Most cases were recorded in heavily populated states with large metropolitan areas.

However, police said a pattern of year-on-year increases in cases was not necessarily a cause for alarm. With a large number of unreported cases of this type of offense, they said, the figures likely reflected improved monitoring and investigation. That said, they also warned many cases likely still went unreported.

Child abuse on the dark web

Meanwhile, the number of cases involving depictions of the sexual abuse of children jumped by 7.4% to around 45,000 cases, the BKA said,

In the five years recorded from 2019 to 2023, the number of cases more than tripled, from 12,268 to 45,191. 

Police attributed much of this to an increase in online and communications behavior, and improved police powers to prosecute such actions.

What did officials say about the report?

"Every day, 54 children and young people in Germany are victims of sexual abuse," said Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser at the presentation of the report.

"These are horrific acts that deeply affect us and leave us speechless. Most of the victims knew the perpetrators because they are family members, friends or acquaintances." 

She spoke of horrific acts that left people stunned and called for a discussion on online data storage.

"Offenders must not feel safe anywhere. We therefore also need an obligation for providers to store IP addresses," said Faeser.

In its report, the BKA pointed out that the number of child abuse cases uncovered is closely linked to police monitoring activities and reporting behavior.

"In view of the increasing number of tips and rising case numbers, we have strengthened our evaluation capabilities and cooperation with the state police forces and will continue to expand our technical capabilities in order to identify perpetrators even more quickly and effectively," said BKA Vice President Martina Link.

rc/wd (dpa, epd) 

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