“A slap in the face never hurt anyone”

Symbolic image of abuse and violence © 271 EAK MOTO (shutterstock)

Since the turn of the millennium, parents are no longer allowed to beat their children. But violence in families still exists – as shown, for example, by the many cases of abuse in North Rhine-Westphalia or the Corona crisis.

A series of abuse cases shakes North Rhine-Westphalia. The perpetrators have apparently often abused girls and boys who were entrusted to them – their own children, foster children or children of their partners. At the same time, social work practitioners confirm what they had been warning about since mid-March: All indications are that family violence increased during the Corona Lockdown.

For 20 years, children in Germany have had a right to a nonviolent upbringing. "Physical punishment, psychological injuries and other degrading measures are inadmissible" has been written into the German Civil Code since 2000 – and experts still see a need for action, especially with regard to sexual violence.

Law outlawing violence in parenting

"There is still a lot to be done," says Gaby Flosser, state chairwoman of the Child Protection Association of North Rhine-Westphalia, for example. The organization calls for harsher punishments for abusers and a de-tabooing of the ie in the public sphere. Children have to go to an average of seven points of contact before sexual abuse is recognized, Flosser said. The professor of education therefore advocates more attentiveness on the part of teachers, educators and neighbors. "We have to raise public awareness of what violence can be and where violence occurs."

On 6. July 2000, the Bundestag passed the law to outlaw violence in parenting. Four months later it came into force. However, the law had to go a long way before it reached this point. While corporal punishment was banned in schools in the GDR from the very beginning, teachers in most states of the Federal Republic were allowed to strike until 1973 – in Bavaria, even until 1983. The situation in families was different: parents still had a legal right to corporal punishment. Until 1958, by the way, only the father was entitled to this right – then the Equal Rights Act came into force.

Law also meant a paradigm shift

In the early 1990s, Germany finally joined the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The document urges to protect children from violence and abuse by parents. Still, implementation in Germany has been controversial. "A slap in the face never hurt a child," "That's how we grew up," "The state shouldn't interfere in families" – were the reservations, as Marlis Herterich of the Cologne Child Protection Association recalls.

The 2000 law was a paradigm shift, Herterich said – namely, that children have rights of their own. When fathers and mothers become violent today, the experts believe that it is often due to excessive demands. This had also become clear in the Corona crisis. "We notice among the families with whom we are in contact that the prere has increased," reports the technical director of the Cologne Child Protection Association, Maria Grobe Perdekamp. In the cathedral city there had not been more Inobhutnahmen. Since the end of the strict contact restrictions, however, the organization has again registered more reports, for example from teachers.

Families in the Corona Crisis

"Corona makes very drastically visible under which conditions children grow up in our society," says Grobe Perdekamp. Children and parents need more low-threshold services they can turn to. The Child Protection League is also calling for more money for counseling centers.

Comedian Cordula Stratmann brings a completely different aspect to the foreground. The entertainer, who also appears again and again in the quiz show "Wer weib denn sowas" ("Who knows what?"), promotes the Child Protection League?"for non-violent upbringing. "Children need parents," emphasizes Stratmann. Therefore, a connection had to be made between violence against children and parenting. Many men, however, showed too little commitment in their role as fathers. "We still have a problem with male and female role models today," Stratmann says, warning, "We leave behind extremely needy children if we don't do our job of parenting."

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Christina Cherry
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