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Don't turn away

Ines Pohl
Ines Pohl
August 7, 2018

For years, a mother in Staufen sexually assaulted her son and rented him to rapists via the internet. The case has shocked Germany. But shock is not enough: We must be vigilant, writes Ines Pohl, DW's editor-in-chief.

The defendant from Staufen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Seeger

The reports seem almost impossible. How could a mother not only allow her partner to rape her son for years, but also sexually abuse the child herself? And that's not all. Via the internet, the couple offered the boy for rent to rapists all over the worldThe case shocked Germany. Now the defendants have been convicted.

How can people be capable of such a thing? The images that come to mind are so horrible as to make you want to not think about it at all. There's so much bad news these days anyway. It's all quite unbearable.

Ines Pohl
DW Editor-in-Chief Ines PohlImage: DW/P. Böll

Trying to imagine what the little boy must have experienced over the past few years makes you sick. He just turned 10. You want to turn away.

And that's exactly what you should not do.

Fund child welfare

This case, in the southern German town of Staufen, is extreme. But it's not as if there is not sexual violence elsewhere in Germany. As we did in Staufen, we usually learn after the fact that the authorities, the child welfare offices, definitely had information that should have drawn their attention. How can a pedophile with a criminal record live under the same roof as a small child in a country with Germany's elaborate administrative structures? That's what happened in Staufen.

There is no point in looking for meaning in brutal crimes such as this. They must, however, awake Germans to the need for discussion. Youth welfare offices must be better equipped so that they can do everything in their power to really protect children. It is unacceptable that authorities in this rich country complain about insufficient capacities to follow up on evidence in-depth. Ultimately, however, every single individual must listen, watch and report if they notice something that is off. Even if that means leaving their comfort zones.

A society must always be measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members. And a society is not an abstract quantity. It's made up of us: you and me. We are the ones who cannot close our eyes.

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Ines Pohl
Ines Pohl Bureau head of DW's Washington Studio@inespohl