“We don't know how many people will come forward”

Synod of the EKD © Norbert Neetz (epd)

In November, the Protestant Church in Germany presented an eleven-point plan for the clarification and prevention of sexualized violence. The Evangelical Church of the Palatinate now appoints an independent commission.

A two-member independent commission is to investigate possible cases of sexual abuse in the area of the Evangelical Church of the Palatinate.

The regional church is thus implementing a resolution of the regional synod of last November, said the regional church abuse commissioner Bettina Wilhelm to the Evangelical Press Service (epd) in Speyer. So far, he said, four cases of sexual abuse have been reported and dealt with in the regional church in recent decades, and there are no known current cases.

Honorary commission as external contact

According to Wilhelm, the commission includes Anja Schraut, presiding judge at the Zweibrucken Higher Regional Court, and the Protestant theologian, Germanist and Gestalt therapist Ilse Seifert from Bad Durkheim.

A third person for the commission is still being sought. Its voluntary members not only investigate possible cases of abuse, but also act as external contacts – in addition to the official commissioners in the regional church and the diaconate.

With the establishment of an independent commission, the Evangelical Church of the Palatinate is complying with a corresponding request of the Synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD).

Last November, in view of the abuse debate in the Catholic Church, the commission adopted an eleven-point plan for the clarification and prevention of sexualized violence. Among other things, this provides for the development of a catalog of measures on the basis of studies.

Increase in personnel with higher number of cases

It is difficult to estimate how much work the commission will have to do. "We don't know how many people are coming forward," said lawyer Wilhelm.

If there are higher numbers of cases, there will be an increase in staff for processing, she said. Prevention work is about identifying and eliminating structures and other "risk factors" that promote abuse. Those affected would be encouraged to come forward and would be accompanied if desired.

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Christina Cherry
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