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Germany records rise in child sexual abuse in 2021

May 30, 2022

A report from the German police has shown a significant increase in reports of sexualized violence against minors. The number of cases involving child abuse material has more than doubled.

A woman investigating child abuse material sits at a computer
The number of cases involving child abuse material more than doubled in Germany in 2021Image: Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance/dpa

The number of cases of sexualized violence against minors in Germany last year reached an average of 49 victims per day, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).

The data, published on Monday, shows that 17,704 children under the age of 14 were victims of sexualized violence in 2021, up from just over 16,900 in 2020. Of those, 2,281 were younger than six years old.

The report also revealed that the number of recorded cases involving the online spread, acquisition, ownership, or production of child abuse images, or other materials, doubled last year, reaching 39,171 cases, in comparison to just over 18,700 in 2020.

Europe is a hub of child abuse material

The BKA has been working with the US-based National Center of Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) which passes on data of offenses carried out in Germany to the German police.

"We really welcome this," BKA President Holger Münch said during the presentation of the report in Berlin, highlighting the importance of "outlawing, prosecuting and ending the worst acts of violence against children and young people as the most vulnerable members of society."

BKA President Holger Münch during the presentation of the report in Berlin
BKA President Holger Münch presented the report at a conference in Berlin Image: Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance/dpa

It was not clear if the increase in case numbers was due to more offenses or better investigations.

The federal government's abuse commissioner, Kerstin Claus, called the figures shocking, but not unexpected, saying that Europe has become a hub for sharing child abuse material.

According to the BKA, around 60% of such material that exists online is stored on European servers.

"We need strengthened European cooperation and substantially more investments in the personnel and technological capabilities for the investigating authorities," Claus said. "Every success is important because it gives us the chance to stop acute child abuse and prevent further offenses."

Child abuse on the dark web

Young people sharing abusive images on social media

The number of children or teenagers found to be sharing such material on social media has increased tenfold since 2018 and accounted for over 14,500 cases in 2021.

Claus said during the presentation of the report that most young people are not aware that sharing abusive material is a crime.

She called for parents and schools to find ways to educate young people about the issue.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said on Sunday that there was an "urgent need for action" against "one of the worst forms of criminality."

She added that BKA investigation teams would be boosted and that the topic of child abuse would be on the agenda at an Interior Ministry conference this week.

ab/nm (AFP, epd, kna)