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German study reveals scope of child sex abuse

June 14, 2017

Nearly 70 percent of child sex abuse cases in Germany took place in the family or social circles, a report has found. Researchers also said that children often received delayed help because mothers did not intervene.

Ein Stoff-Teddy liegt auf dem Boden, Symbolfoto Kindheitstrauma und Gewalt Kindesmissbrauch in Deutschland
Image: picture alliance/dpa

An independent commission investigating child sexual abuse in Germany released an interim report on Wednesday after conducting interviews and gathering responses from hundreds of victims and witnesses.

The report found that a majority of reported cases occurred within the family or close social circles, followed by abuse in institutions such as schools.

The vast majority of victims are female, said commission head Sabine Andresen while presenting the report in Berlin.

The highest number of reported cases occurred in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, followed by the southern state of Bavaria.

Little help from families

In cases of sexual abuse that occur within the family, children often received no help or delayed help because mothers failed to intervene, researchers said.

According to victims and witnesses, the vast majority of sexual abuse was carried out by the child's father, followed by their brothers or stepbrothers.

However, the report underlined that mothers played an integral role, stating that only in a few reported cases did mothers believe their children once they spoke about the abuse and intervene on their behalf.

Kinder Gewalt Symbolbild
A majority of sexual abusers in the family are fathers and brothers, the report foundImage: Imago/Imagebroker

The commission noted that some mothers tolerated the abuse due to powerlessness in the relationship, violence in their partnership or dependency. Additionally, some mothers feared that they would also become the subject of abuse or that they would lose their partner or the whole family.

"The report grants a deep insight into the failure of mothers, but it also shows how little they know about how to help," child abuse commissioner Johannes-Wilhem Rörig told news agency DPA.

Breaking the silence

The independent commission hopes to use the data gathered from surveys and interviews to develop better abuse prevention models, and called for more financial support to continue their research.

The independent commission was established to investigated several forms of child sex abuse in Germany as well as in former East Germany in order to uncover structures that may have fostered abuse in the past.

Next year, the commission is set to release its reports on child sexual abuse in churches as well as its findings on cases in former East Germany.

rs/rc (AFP, dpa, epd, KNA)