Women religious often keep silent about rape

Women religious often keep silent about rape

Women and girls are also victims of violence in the church again and again. Many remain silent out of shame. Women religious also experience abuse and dare not speak about it for fear of slipping into poverty.

Interviewer: Today's International Day against Violence against Women is a reminder that 25 to 30 percent of all women in Germany are victims of violence at least once in their lives. Even in the Catholic Church, violence against women who are sexually abused by religious and priests occurs again and again. The Social Service of Catholic Women (SkF), together with other major Catholic women's associations, is therefore raising its voice today. What exactly do you demand?

Anne Rossenbach (Social Service of Catholic Women Cologne, SkF): SkF and other women's associations call for education and more support for women who have been victims of abuse in a church context.

Interviewer: Do you have the impression that the climate has changed after the abuse scandal became public?? That it has become somewhat easier to address and tackle the ie of violence against women religious?

Rossenbach: I don't think it has really gotten any easier. There was an arte documentary in March of this year ("God's Abused Servant," note.d.Red.). Pope Francis himself has acknowledged that abuse against women religious exists and will likely continue to exist. Yet nothing happened, it ebbed away. Maybe the church has to go through the development of the whole society first, because also in the secular area it is not so that one simply speaks about violence or abuse, but also there it is very shameful.

Interviewer: The speechlessness and the shame that these religious women have felt for so long, that connects them to the victims of so-called domestic violence. Why do so many women and girls not dare to report their tormentors??

Rossenbach: With young people, of course, it's not only shame, but also the theme: I don't want to destroy my family, maybe something will still change, quiet silence. But this also affects many adult women who want to hold on to this family, because the entire image of family, all the desires that one had, are destroyed at that moment, go down the drain, when one speaks out and says: I have experienced domestic violence.

This goes as far as endangering material existence because women earn less, are materially dependent on their partners. I think that in religious contexts this is multiplied. The cases that have become known were cases of spiritual communities, of young women who are materially quite poor and would have to leave a religious order penniless if they were to make this abuse known. At least it has been so in the cases that have become known.

Interviewer: Domestic violence sounds almost a bit harmless – what exactly is domestic violence?

Rossenbach: Domestic violence or also partnership violence means: Humiliation, degradation up to physical hits and murder. Today, the Federal Criminal Police Office, respectively the Federal Minister for Family Affairs Giffey, published the latest figures: in 2018, 122 women were killed by intimate partner violence. Domestic violence includes stalking, abuse, rape, spying on the cell phone, cutting off social contacts with family, friends, isolation. And that makes it even more difficult. Where to turn if I want to get out of this situation?

Interviewer: They actively try to offer help, among other things with the online counseling nonviolent.de, which is aimed at such girls and women who are affected by violence in the family or partnership. How exactly does the counseling?

Rossenbach: non-violent.de is only one component in a very wide network of assistance. There is a lot of talk about women's shelters. We have an intervention center against domestic violence, which is supported by nonviolent.de is added. The whole thing is a chat, but where you can also get access to information, to local counseling centers and counseling, and in further individual counseling also get help. Internet counseling is, so to speak, the counterpart to the nationwide emergency phone.

The interview was conducted by Hilde Regeniter.

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Christina Cherry
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