Kapitel 2: Gewalt
2. Violence

2.a Abuse and neglect

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2.b Sexual abuse

The German Federal Act on Child Protection, which took effect in January 2012, established fundamental regulations for various areas in relation to neglect and violence against children and adolescents. As such, a comprehensive roll-out and expansion of aid services for childbirth and the first three years of children’s lives was made possible by the German Act on Cooperation and Information in Child Protection (KKG) and the provision of financial resources.

Further professions involving contact with children and adolescents (e.g. doctors and teachers) are now also obliged to provide protection if there is evidence of a threat to a child’s wellbeing. All child and youth-support facilities and services where children and adolescents are housed, looked after and supported must develop institutional prevention and protection schemes. Safeguarding children’s rights to protection against violence, and their participation rights, is also legally established as part of these schemes (Sections 45, 79a of Vol. VIII of the German Social Code). Support for this comes through the activities of the Unabhängiger Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für Fragen des sexuellen Kindesmissbrauchs (German Federal Government’s Independent Commissioner for Matters of Child Sexual Abuse), such as ‘Schule gegen sexuelle Gewalt’ (‘Schools against sexual abuse’), the nationwide ‘Trau dich!’ (‘I dare you!’) initiative to prevent child sexual abuse, the work of the Unabhängige Kommission zur Aufarbeitung sexuellen Kindesmissbrauchs (Independent Enquiry into Child Sexual Abuse), and the nationwide ‘BeSt’ model project to improve the protection of disabled children at (semi-)in-patient facilities. Studies also show that prevention works and domestic violence is on the decline.

The publicised cases of sexual abuse at institutions during the 2010s resulted in a number of studies on sexual abuse being initiated in order to better investigate unreported cases. It must also be stated, however, that this does not apply to the same extent for other forms of violence against children and adolescents. For example, there are very few current studies on the prevalence of parental violence, mental and physical child abuse, child neglect or the witnessing of domestic violence between parents. The German police crime statistics show figures for reported cases; available figures for unreported cases fluctuate depending on their method of collection. Not enough focus is being placed on the fact that children and adolescents often do not just experience one form of violence, meaning correlations between different forms of violence must be taken into account.

As children are particularly affected by violence, they also need special protection. The risk of being affected by violence increases sharply for children who, for example, are affected by racism, homo- and transphobia or anti-Semitism.

The development of prevention and protection schemes sees institutions and associations faced with major challenges, especially when activities are primarily facilitated through the work of volunteers. In these contexts, as well as at municipal and state levels, appropriate options for financial support are lacking. As a result, many resort to the existing counselling centres for violence against children and adolescents due to the expertise they offer. The fact that there has been no notable development in this area is worthy of criticism. Even though the requests to develop prevention and protection schemes are on the rise, and counselling by experienced specialists has been introduced for even more professions in cases where there is evidence of risk to a child’s wellbeing, most of these centres have very limited resources to cope with the increased demand. It has also been noted that many target groups cannot be reached or have no access. These institutions are not available across the board either.

In view of the increase in bullying, particularly cyberbullying, advanced training and continued education for various professions, such as teachers and judges, play a key role. Despite the ‘German federal government’s 2011 action plan to protect children and adolescents against sexual abuse and exploitation’, addressing the issue of violence against children and adolescents is still not among the compulsory components of relevant vocational training or courses, e.g. for teachers. There is also a lack of awareness-raising programmes promoting positive forms of child-rearing. While municipalities are obliged to provide relevant parental education programmes, there are no proper qualitative or quantitative standards for this.

As such, there is a dizzying array of prevention measures and programmes run by various players and organisations which do not tie in with each other at all, and which display no common strategy.

In implementing the protection mandate for cases where there is evidence of a risk to child wellbeing, most of the youth welfare offices have increased their staffing, organisational resources and quality standards, and adapted their facilities to the legal regulations. At the same time, the excessive load on social services is becoming increasingly apparent: Too much bureaucracy, unstaffed centres and too many cases are making it difficult to provide good child-protection services. Many places are thus complaining that this is having a detrimental effect on aid for families requiring assistance below the risk threshold.

  • The National Coalition Germany recommends that the UN Committee call on the German federal government to
  • 53. Develop and update, with the involvement of states and municipalities, the national prevention strategy, which pools existing programmes and activities, establishes ties between them, and makes them permanent. This also includes training and continued education for relevant professions, as well as raising parent awareness of children’s rights and non-violent child rearing;
  • 54. Establish relevant provisions in Volume VIII of the German Social Code to facilitate a comprehensive, needs-based expansion of specialised counselling centres and services for different target groups and for all forms of violence against children and adolescents;
  • 55. Establish legislation granting children and adolescents an independent legal right to access parenting assistance in addition to that provided by their parents;
  • 56. Comprehensively support social work for children and adolescents, the work of youth associations, and various services for children and adolescents;
  • 57. Further develop the Frühe Hilfen support centres for pregnant women, young mothers and families so that all parents-to-be and those with small children can benefit from a wide range of services;
  • 58. Extensively train child and youth workers and guardians ad litem in identifying, assessing and acting in child-protection cases;
  • 59. Introduce mandatory advanced training for judges and public prosecutors so that the justice system can be rendered more child-friendly and children can be appropriately granted their right to be heard;
  • 60. Initiate long-term research activities into all forms of violence against children and adolescents, including violence between children and adolescents, from the time around birth onwards in order to gain a greater insight into unreported cases and thus also establish a better basis for prevention work.

Child protection in the digital environment

When it comes to children’s and adolescents’ education, and their involvement in the community, the use of the Internet and digital media is a key part of their everyday life. Digital exhibitionism is on the rise not only amongst adults, but also by increasingly younger children and adolescents. Digital media and the unlimited availability of sexual online content pose the risk of experiencing sexual abuse, e.g. cybergrooming and prostitution through a webcam. In other words, digitisation is creating and intensifying new forms of exclusion, discrimination and sexual abuse, which spread particularly quickly via social media.

Perpetrators use everyday images, posed images and sexualised images of children to sexually exploit them. Although so-called ‘posing’ pictures have been a criminal offence since 2015, it is not possible to assess the criminal relevance of all acts in Germany. This is due to the plethora of sexual abuse images on the Internet, Germany’s tight restrictions on data retention, and the fact that perpetrators have the technical means to ensure they leave no trace.

  • The National Coalition Germany recommends that the UN Committee call on the German federal government to
  • 61. Address legal loopholes to protect children in the digital environment, and oblige businesses to implement child-protection mechanisms;
  • 62. Develop a media-protection act for children and adolescents which also includes supporting and strengthening children and adolescents in terms of critical use of digital media and the Internet;
  • 63. Ensure the German Network Enforcement Act (Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz) of 1 September 2017, which is also responsible for the gaming industry, is adapted to the latest developments;
  • 64. Provide adequate resources, including research resources, to protect children in the digital environment.
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2.b Sexual abuse
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