Health Policy | Sexualized violence against children is increasing

According to the Federal Criminal Police Office, there were more cases of sexualized violence against children in 2021 and a sharp increase in depictions of abuse. Pediatricians call for more sustainable structures to detect child endangerment.

Unfortunately, neglected and abused children and young people are not uncommon in Germany. According to police crime statistics (PKS), the number of cases of child sexual abuse rose by 6.3 percent to more than 15,500 last year. There was a significant increase of almost 109 percent to more than 39,000 cases of depictions of sexualized violence against children and young people.

Extrapolated last year, an average of 49 children were victims of sexualized violence per day – two more than in 2020, said the President of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), Holger Münch, on Monday to journalists in Berlin. “This illustrates the dramatic extent of sexualized violence against children.”

Dark field many times higher

Münch emphasized that the annual PKS numbers indicate the crimes that became known to the police and were “detected” by them. The overall number of unreported crimes and the proportion of crimes that the police are not aware of is many times higher.

A connection between the recently increased numbers of child abuse and the coronavirus pandemic that started in spring 2020 cannot be ruled out, but cannot be directly derived, said Münch. As the weakest members of society, children and young people must be given special protection and crimes against them must be “particularly proscribed, prosecuted and ended”, said the BKA President.

The Independent Commissioner for Child Sexual Abuse, Kerstin Claus, spoke of frightening numbers. However, these did not reflect the actual extent of child abuse. It is a “scandal” that there are still no reliable figures for the dark field in the cases of abuse.

Claus: Need a well-founded overall picture

At the same time, Claus criticized that “essential reference values” were missing in order to be able to “appropriately” classify the increase that has now been determined. “Has it now been determined more stringently and that’s why the numbers are increasing? Or do these investigative figures reflect an increase in criminal offenses as well? We just don’t know.”

A “scientifically sound overall picture of the actual amount of sexual violence against children and young people” is necessary, Claus repeated the demand for the establishment of a research center “Prevalence of Sexual Violence”.

The deputy chairwoman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Andrea Lindholz, was also alarmed. Behind every statistical case of sexualised violence against children there is a “vaulted soul”, said Lindholz on Monday in Berlin. “Many of those affected suffer from these heinous acts throughout their lives.”

It is good that the BKA should get more jobs to combat child abuse, said Lindholz. But more staff and equipment alone were not enough. The authorities would also need the necessary powers to stop child abuse.

Pediatric medical societies and professional associations had recently declared that the health system must also take responsibility for combating violence against children and young people. For this purpose, child protection groups should be set up in hospitals and models for regular financing of child protection should be implemented in the outpatient area, according to a position paper created under the leadership of the German Society for Child Protection in Medicine (DGKiM).

Fischbach: The current system falls short

“The current system is simply not enough to prevent developments such as violence, malnutrition and neglect in families,” said the President of the Professional Association of Pediatricians (BVKJ), Dr. Thomas Fischbach. In the private sector in particular, where affected children and young people are often seen first, there is an “urgent” need for comprehensive and sustainably financed structures so that cases of child endangerment can be detected at an early stage. The BVKJ is one of the co-signatories of the DGKiM paper.

The traffic light has announced that the processing of structural sexualized violence against children and young people, for example in sports clubs or churches, should be accompanied and actively promoted. “If necessary”, “legal foundations” should be created for this.

Also read: 126th German Doctors’ Day sends a strong signal for child protection

Source: Ärzte Zeitung