Sexual abuse of children: experts draw bitter results


Status: 11/30/2021 6:03 a.m.

Ten years ago today, experts presented measures to better protect children from sexual abuse. The Federal Government Commissioner and other experts are now drawing a bitter balance.

By Sebastian Bellwinkel, NDR

Ingo Fock takes one last drag from the cigarette and expresses it vigorously. “At the moment I’m standing here, a child in Germany has to suffer sexual violence about every two to three minutes,” says the founder of the Göttingen association “Against Abuse”. “That can be deduced from the unreported numbers we have. Where is the help?”

Then he rushes back to his office to answer inquiries. His association takes care of those affected who get tangled up in the bureaucracy jungle when applying for therapy and victim compensation – time and again. Actually, that should be a thing of the past by now.

Because after the so-called abuse scandal in 2010 at Canisius College, Odenwald School and other well-known institutions, the federal government convened a round table at which the ministers for family, education and justice worked with experts on suggestions for improvement. On November 30, 2011 – exactly ten years ago, they presented a catalog of demands that gave those affected all over Germany hope: more money for specialist advice centers, better therapy offers, an aid fund for unbureaucratic emergency aid.

Abuse scandals in the Catholic Church and the Odenwald School

Griet von Petersdorff, RBB, ARD annual review 2010, December 20, 2010

“We haven’t done enough”

On this anniversary, Johannes-Wilhelm Rörig, the Federal Government’s Independent Abuse Commissioner, also draws a sobering conclusion: “We haven’t done enough to better protect girls and boys in Germany from sexual violence – in their families, in their social environment or at home the use of digital media, “says Rörig im Interview with the Ed.

Politics established his office ten years ago so that he could give those affected a voice on the political stage. But he has no power. “I acted in a normatively vacuum”, is how the lawyer describes the faulty construction somewhat cryptically. In German: The abuse officer is a clawless tiger who can only say meow. And hardly anyone listens to him.

Disastrous therapeutic care

One of the greatest shortcomings is the still catastrophic therapeutic care for those affected: too few specialists, endless waiting lists, hardly any training for junior staff. Changing that would have been the task of the Federal Ministry of Health. But that wasn’t part of the round table back then and has ducked away ever since. “In the past four years I haven’t had a single meeting with Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn,” explains Rörig when asked.

More and more accessible trauma therapies cost money. Lot of money. “I definitely believe that the high costs there will lead to restrictive decisions,” Rörig distributes to the ministry. “And so the situation is still mostly terrible for those affected,” confirms Ingo Fock from the “Against Abuse” association.

Lockdown exacerbated the problem

During the corona pandemic, the situation worsened because children and young people in lockdown often passed the time online, be it on Instagram and Tiktok or in games like Fortnite and Roblox. The sexual initiation of contacts in the social media and in the chats of such games have “increased extremely”, says child protection activist Julia von Weiler. “You have free rein in the network because the probability of detection is almost zero.”

Children were persuaded to undress in front of the webcam, to touch each other. And most of the time, the perpetrators record these abuse recordings and distribute them en masse on the internet. And no one prevents them from doing so. “Although the digital industry earns billions from its child-like customers, it does far too little to protect them,” says von Weiler.

Legal vacancy

And the police are just watching. “We are so busy with the preservation of evidence in the real world that we cannot look for any new tasks virtually,” say investigators from the Rostock criminal investigation department. “It’s a paralyzing feeling.”

Experts have been warning for years that there will be a legal vacuum on the Internet. It is estimated that only four to five percent of police officers are online, mostly on Twitter or Facebook – but not where sexual assaults occur.

There is a lack of experts

“Sooner or later we will need a digital guard. But it is not that easy,” said North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Herbert Reul. Since the abuse scandals in Lügde, Bergisch-Gladbach and Münster, the CDU man has been one of the few people who are obviously interested in the subject.

For more presence on the Internet, explains Reul, you need the staff. In addition, the citizens would have to go along this path, because “that means that somewhere in the analog world the police are no longer there”. Thirdly, police officers are not prepared for these tasks, says Reul, “we have too few experts”. And so it happens that, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office, the demand for abuse images is increasing dramatically: most recently by 53 percent.

“Oversleep topic”

“We totally slept through the subject of sexual violence against children,” admits the North Rhine-Westphalian interior minister. How can that be? “Because as a politician you take care of a lot of things, mostly where you are the focus person. And then there are topics that you don’t find so important. I was like the others in society. I thought that was an issue , but not such an important one. ”

At least an honest answer, but it does not help those affected in their need. The hope generated by politics ten years ago only turns out to be a speech bubble. “What I really sucks is that we let children and young people, adult women and men in need, tile in front of the wall with an announcement,” says Julia von Weiler from the “Innocence in Danger” association, expressing what many think.

The new federal government has announced a few projects on the subject in the coalition agreement. But the grand coalition had that too. The result is known.

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