Portal for abuse victims: “Stories that count”

As of: 01/19/2022 4:44 p.m

A new Internet portal focuses on victims of sexual abuse. With their reports, they can make experienced suffering more understandable for society. They are often forgotten because the focus is on the deed and the perpetrator.

By Jonas Pospesch, ARD Capital Studio

“At the age of eleven, I was raped in church at night and dressed only in an acolyte’s robe. To this day I don’t know who the perpetrator was,” writes Johann. Elke writes: “From the age of ten I made several suicide attempts that failed. Nobody noticed.”

“I will never forget this cruel and terrible trauma that I experienced and went through as a child in the home, and I still haven’t forgotten it in my old age,” reports Wilhelm. And Marina writes: “With the abuse, it’s like someone wantonly hitting me with an iron bar on the knee, only invisible.” Those affected describe their experiences of abuse on the “Stories that count” portal. The reports get under your skin when you read them.

The shared experiences are intended to make the suffering of those affected understandable for society, says Brigitte Tillmann, a member of the Independent Commission for Dealing with Child Sexual Abuse, which set up the portal. “Nothing is more impressive than the reports of those affected themselves. Their words, the descriptions of their feelings. The alternating power of speech, the speechlessness with which they describe what was done to them at the time and what haunts them to this day.”

Victims should be the focus

100 reports from abuse victims and witnesses are documented on the portal. They represent thousands of experiences in families, churches, sports clubs, and other places. More stories are to follow. The portal wants to be a “worthy place of remembrance”.

The focus should be on the victims. These are often forgotten because the focus is on the crime and the perpetrator, says Matthias Katsch. He is also a member of the investigative commission and himself a victim of child abuse. According to him, the portal has two goals:

On the one hand, for those affected, it is a gesture of recognition and respect for the suffering, but also for the lifetime achievement that was associated with overcoming it. On the other hand, we look in the direction of society, of those who are fellow human beings of those affected and who often know little about sexualized violence.

“You take away the power of the perpetrator”

To this day, it is difficult for many victims of abuse to tell about their experiences, even in private, says Katsch. The portal should encourage these people and show them that they are not alone. Katsch himself knows how good it can be to talk about the abuse: “It’s a kind of self-empowerment. You take away the power of the perpetrator if you manage to talk about it freely and openly.”

The stories on the portal are also intended to raise awareness of how society can listen, look and react better in the future in order to prevent child abuse. Tillmann reads from the letter of an affected person: “I have decided to make my report available in the hope that through my experiences I can help to better protect children – and so that my past gets some meaning, something Causes positive things for others.”

For Katsch, further steps must now follow. He would like the federal government to come up with a cross-departmental action plan against child abuse so that fewer children become victims and the victims receive better care.

Victims of abuse tell their story on web portal

Jonas Pospesch, ARD Berlin, 19.1.2022 · 16:00


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