Breaking the silence

Breaking the silence

Victims of violence © Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

More expertise and faster procedures for protecting minors – that's what the Independent Commission for Coming to Terms with Child Sexual Abuse is calling for. It is also important to file a complaint in order to break the silence.

In the fight against child abuse, experts call for more expertise among investigators and accelerated youth protection procedures. This is the result of current recommendations of the Independent Commission for the Reappraisal of Sexual Child Abuse, which were to be presented in Berlin on Tuesday.

The commission recommends establishing "regionally and professionally concentrated centers of competence" and speaks of focal courts and focal prosecutors' offices. In addition, education and training would have to be improved. It is also important to speed up investigative and criminal proceedings so as not to increase the psychological stress on victims.

Long proceedings lead to high psychological stress

Investigative and criminal proceedings in the field of sexual abuse of children and adolescents often last several years, the experts emphasize. "This leads to a high level of psychological stress for those affected. Thus, they cannot begin trauma therapy, cannot find closure with what has happened, and must permanently maintain it in their mindscape."

The commission also called for criminal charges to be filed in cases of child and adolescent abuse. According to police crime statistics, in 2017, in about 13.000 cases reported.

However, the number of unreported crimes in the dark field is much higher, according to the commission. Estimates put the proportion at around 80 percent. This is also reflected in the reports of the victims who have contacted the commission so far.

Promoting social awareness of sexual violence

Victims often ame that they will be treated "insensitively" by investigators and that they may not be believed. In addition, they had the impression that the cases against perpetrators would be discontinued with a high probability, they would receive a lenient sentence or an acquittal, the commission explained.

"The value of a criminal complaint lies not only in a conviction of the perpetrator or perpetrators. Through them, silence is also broken," emphasized the chairwoman of the commission, Sabine Andresen. "In order to enable children and adolescents, but also meanwhile adult victims, to speak, they also need support in investigative and criminal proceedings."

Commission member Brigitte Tilmann also explained that a criminal complaint has an impact on crime statistics. "The more meaningful these are, the more they promote a social awareness of the dimension of sexual violence against children and young people."

The "Recommendations for Improving the Situation of People Affected by Sexual Violence in Childhood and Adolescence in Investigative and Criminal Proceedings" now presented by the commission also suggest more networking. Also, among other things, an interdisciplinary working group should be formed, "which formulates binding standards for the credibility test at the respective state of research and reviews them regularly".

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Christina Cherry
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