German Child Abuse Inquiry says victims should be allowed to speak

Germany’s Independent Inquiry into Sexual Child Abuse (“the inquiry”) issued a 350 page interim report on 3 April 2019, after three years of investigations.

The inquiry was established by the German Government in 2016 and the recently published interim report calls for a wider conversation in Germany on the issue.

The inquiry investigates all forms of child sexual abuse in Germany, such as sexual abuse;

  • in institutions,
  • by family members,
  • by social environment,
  • by unknown offenders,
  • in the context of organised crime.

To date, 900 people testified in confidential hearings and another 300 submitted written reports for evaluation.

83% percent of the survivors who participated were female and more than half suffered abuse within their family.

Nearly half were younger than six years old when the abuse occurred, and a third of the victims are now in their 50s or 60s. It also found evidence that the abuse passed through generations in the same family.

According to the inquiry, the “silence of the others” such as close family members, neighbours, teachers or employees of child protective services would have contributed to the fact that the abuse which the survivors experienced “did not end and that they were prevented from coming to terms with it later”.

In its interim report the inquiry was also critical of the level of support provided by the German government and state authorities to survivors of child sexual abuse.

Sabine Andresen, the inquiry chair, accepted that the report was not a representative study, but she said it did show how children experience sexual abuse, what the consequences are and why those affected are not always sufficiently helped.

The inquiry said there is a lack of recognition and support in dealing with survivors of child sexual abuse and challenged the German Government to provide more permanently funded counselling centers and a greater range of therapy options financed by public health insurance.

The inquiry was originally intended to run for three years, however, the German Government have expanded its terms of reference and the inquiry has been asked to investigate other areas of abuse and come up with material proposals for remedies. Inquiry chair, Sabine Andresen said the inquiry has yet to address disabled children in competitive sports, who are often reluctant to come forward.

We will await the final recommendations of the inquiry but it seems even at this stage consideration is being given to some form of compensation/redress for survivors under Germany’s Victim Compensation Act which the inquiry say should be more accessible to survivors.

news_21734JD Written by Sharon Moohan, partner at BLM

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