The fourth chapter is titled “My Story”, and that says a lot about the new study that the Independent Commission on Coming to terms with Child Sexual Abuse presented in Berlin on Tuesday. In 870 confidential hearings and written reports, the majority of abuse victims, but also some relatives and contemporary witnesses, have told the Commission their stories since 2017. Just like Anja, whose report is part of the study: “He tried every day and always to come up to me and touch me,” she says of her father, “to bare himself, to corner me and kiss me.” Or Monika: “My father’s sexual assaults started when I was ten or eleven. I never talked to anyone about it.”
“I hope that this study will be read a lot,” said Angela Marquardt, who sits on the Federal Government’s Independent Abuse Commissioner, on Tuesday at the presentation of the 155-page report. “Make something of it, no child can protect itself alone!” Sabine Andresen, the chairwoman of the commission, also said: “A child or a young person cannot free himself from the family on his own.” All too often, people around families shy away from intervening, thinking that it is none of their business that goes on behind a family’s doorstep. She also hoped that the study would send a signal to the “specialist public” because many of those affected had contact with the youth welfare office as children, but “it did not result in any help”.
The study is the result of a research project. It is about dealing with the “crime context” of sexual abuse in the family. It is not representative, but the analysis of the reports did reveal some data. The youngest people who turned to the commission were therefore between 16 and 21 years old, the oldest between 76 and 80. Almost 89 percent were women. They suffered the abuse from infancy to adolescence, and the abuse usually began before the age of six.
87 percent perpetrators, 13 percent women perpetrators
Often the violence did not originate from just one perpetrator: the database contains 1153 perpetrators, although there are only 870 cases. Most often the fathers were the perpetrators; they make up the largest group with 36 percent of the database entries. Mothers are named as perpetrators in eight percent of the entries. Stepfathers, grandfathers, grand- and step-uncle and brothers also play a larger role, while female relatives play less of a role. Overall, the reports show 87 percent perpetrators and 13 percent women perpetrators.
In 141 cases of abuse, a “ritualized and / or organized structure” was recognizable – there were collective attacks, children were left to third parties, sometimes for money, or the acts of violence were based on “(pseudo) ideological or religious meaning or justification” hand in hand.