At least 2,225 people affected, 1,259 suspected perpetrators – and a very high number of unreported cases: The study on sexual abuse also shocked the Protestant Church. How does it go from here?
The presentation of the study on sexual violence in the Protestant Church has sparked criticism of the approach and calls for consequences.
“It has become clear that in the Protestant Church, even more than in the Catholic Church or in sport, there is a lack of structures to deal with sexual violence,” said the federal government’s abuse commissioner, Kerstin Claus, to the partner newspapers of the Neue Berliner Editorial Society. The fact that this took so long was “particularly bitter for those affected”. “The regional churches and the regional Diakonie associations have all the more responsibility to take the right steps now.”
An investigation into sexual violence in the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the Diakonie on Thursday documented at least 2,225 victims and 1,259 suspected perpetrators over the past decades. Study director Martin Wazlawik from Hannover University spoke of the “tip of the tip of the iceberg”.
Question about compensation
Kerstin Claus criticized that the question of compensation was not sufficiently answered. “It should not be the case that those affected should name amounts themselves and negotiate compensation. This must be done in the context of the state church,” she said.
Claus called the long period of processing “bitter, especially for those affected.” Compared to the Catholic Church, eight years were lost due to the long wait. “The regional churches and the regional diaconal associations have all the more responsibility to take the right steps now.”
The affected people’s initiative “Eckiger Tisch” complained that the study “raises more questions than it can answer.” A statement continued: “Apparently the EKD was not willing or able to grant comprehensive access to the personnel files. Will we now have to wait several more years until the EKD has concrete cases of abuse in its facilities clarified?”
Evaluation of disciplinary files
The number of cases determined in the study is based on files from the regional churches and the diakonia, and cases known to the regional churches and diaconal organizations were also included. However, the scientists were not able to evaluate all the personal files of all pastors and deacons, but primarily disciplinary files.
Based on their method, the experts came to an estimated total of 3,497 defendants. However, the figures presented would “significantly underestimate” the extent, Wazlawik said, emphasizing that “no comparisons” could be made with the Catholic Church or other institutions.
Criticism of the handling of the files
A study published in 2018 on sexualized violence in the Catholic Church, after evaluating almost 40,000 personnel files from the period between 1945 and 2014, showed that 1,670 Catholic priests and deacons were accused, to whom 3,677 children and young people could be assigned as those affected.
The Cologne constitutional law professor Stephan Rixen, a member of the Independent Commission for the Investigation of Child Sexual Abuse at the federal level, particularly criticized the handling of the files. “The evaluation of the personnel files could certainly have been organized if that had been wanted,” said Rixen to the German Press Agency. This is shown by the study by the Catholic Church, for which almost 40,000 files were evaluated. “At this point the question arises: Does the EKD really want to know?” said Rixen.
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