Escape and sexual violence: When children find only suffering rather than protection

When protection is abused: the risks lie in the German asylum system for Ukrainian children, because the taboo subject of sexual violence against boys and girls is still not enough. Serious consequences for children.

Dusseldorf, 6 March. An 18-year-old refugee from the war in Ukraine is alleged to have been raped by two men, who are also refugees, on a hotel ship currently accommodating asylum seekers. Meanwhile, a 43-year-old man from Herne in North Rhine-Westphalia receives a 25-year-old Ukrainian woman and her son. He is said to have raped the woman and is now in detention.

These are just two of the most recent known sexual offenses against people seeking protection in Germany. Sexual violence against children, which takes many forms and causes unimaginable suffering, rarely surfaces. Since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression on February 24, the Federal Police has registered more than 315,000 refugees from Ukraine. Most of them are women and children. About 3,000 people are being added requesting protection every day, since Ukrainians can enter the country without a visa, the numbers are likely to be higher.

Asylum seekers are among the most vulnerable minorities in Germany. Children among them are at particular risk of becoming victims of sexual violence. According to the Council of Europe, one in five children in Europe is affected by sexual violence during childhood, which in about 80 percent of cases is carried out by someone they trust – for example in the family, at school or at a club. The study by children’s aid organization World Vision Germany eV entitled “Sexual violence against children in the context of flight” from March came to the conclusion that in the context of crisis, conflict or flight, the impact of sexual violence is much greater.

“In Germany there is no allergy”

Child abuse: what can you do?

at Suspected of child abuse You can contact the following places:

  • Child Protection Association
  • Family and educational counseling centers
  • Youth Welfare Office
  • police

Important phone number:

  • Parents’ phone number “Against Grief”: 0800 1110550
  • Children and youth phone: 116111
  • Violence against women helpline: 08000 116016
  • Pastoral care by phone: 116123

Although the study was set up before the Ukraine war and mainly examined girls and boys from Syria, Afghanistan or Kosovo in the German asylum system, World Vision’s director of research, Katrina Rohda AbubaHe explained to ntv.de that the current dangerous conditions in Germany would be the same. “In the case of refugee children from Ukraine, we have to assume that more than one in five has already experienced or may have been affected by sexual violence,” says Rudi Aboba. And for children with disabilities, many of whom come to Germany from Ukrainian orphanages and homes, the rate is likely to be higher.

The head of the research department says that the term sexual violence means that “different forms of violence interact”. It includes verbal, nonverbal or physical violence against girls and boys through sexual acts or sexual content even rape, which occurs regularly. For example, children may be bullied when other children send nude pictures of them. Exercising dominance through sexual means: “Even in the case of sexual violence by adults against children, it is not just about satisfying instincts, there are also perpetrators who want to exercise power, violate boundaries, or control someone,” says Rudi Aboba.

Shortly after the first Russian attacks, almost everyone in Germany was able to take in refugees from Ukraine – without any screening. Be it through the online agency portals or directly on site at the main train station in Berlin. “The unregulated distribution of arrivals in unchecked private homes is a red cloth for me,” says Rudy Aboba. Sexual violence against children is a “taboo topic” that no one wants to talk about: “In Germany there is very little awareness of it, there is no sensitivity. You can see that again now with the Ukraine war, because no one says: “No, you can’t Strangers may take women who have children home.”

She cites the results of her study, which revealed sexual violence against refugee boys and girls in private homes due to the lack of professional social workers and often no lockable rooms. The same dangers lie in the official refugee shelters, which are now also used by Ukrainian families. “Asylum shelters in Germany are very unsafe places for children,” explains Rod Aboba, “because only strangers, volunteers, and employees can enter the room.”

According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have the right to privacy. But this is extremely rare in accommodations in Germany. Another problem is the communal health facilities, some of which cannot be closed either. The World Vision study shows that there is sexual violence by fellow travelers, by family members, but also by volunteers and professional social workers, who are often a kind of confidant to the children.

The SPD’s federal Home Secretary, Nancy Visser, also noted the severity of the problem last week when she presented police crime statistics for the past year. In 2021, about 15,500 cases of sexual violence against children were reported in Germany. This corresponds to an increase of 6.3 percent over the previous year. Visser spoke of “how appalling”. It is the task of society as a whole to protect children. One that has the federal government’s highest priority.

But particularly in the context of asylum, where children are particularly vulnerable and at risk, the policy shows significant shortcomings. From inadequate housing and lack of prevention to lack of curative assistance. For Rod Aboba, the way out of bad numbers is divided into two parts: “Schools should regularly introduce preventive programs for children, in which the most diverse forms of sexual violence are explained.” Every child should know: what’s going wrong with me. To do this, there should be pictorial materials and videos showing both girls and boys in different contexts and children of different skin tones.

The second step is to look at “the structures of the perpetrators and the institutions that make crimes possible,” says Rudi Aboba. “There’s very little sensitivity there, and there is very little caution.” There are cases that repeatedly show that offenders are looking for jobs and hobbies in which they can be alone in a room with children. A realistic view of this danger is still difficult for many in Germany, precisely because it is taboo: in order to really protect children, the numbers and the conclusions drawn from them must be taken seriously, for example, among people who go to school, nurseries or clubs Athletes who work with children are also potential perpetrators. “One help is the four-eyes principle, so that a situation never arises when the employee is alone with the child,” advises the researcher at World Vision.

Another omission for cities and municipalities: if there is sexual violence in the places of residence of asylum seekers, there is usually no proper procedure for reporting and complaints. Such a system should be designed for children with very low thresholds, be multilingual and rely only on writing to a very small extent. However, the place of residence often knows only the classic complaint mailbox. A Ukrainian child who has just arrived in Germany is rarely able to communicate with NGOs and relief organisations. The road to the police is also difficult, full of shame and fear.

Psychological stress, physical injury

sexual assault assistance

People who are affected or who suspect abuse can contact the Sexual Assault Helpline anonymously and free of charge: 0800-22 55530. More information about local advice and help is available at: www.hilfeportal- Abusive.de

Sexual violence involves long-term psychological stress that leads to sleep disturbances, depression, or physical disturbances such as eating problems. Sexual violence also results in physical injury. Boys who have been anal raped in particular often have significant barriers to revealing themselves. But offers of help don’t meet her either. “Boys then suffer forever from the consequences of anal rape and do not receive any medical treatment for it,” Rohde-Abuba says of the study findings, “Although the injuries are very painful, they can lead to fecal incontinence and sometimes require surgery.”

When Home Secretary Visser said protecting boys and girls was a top priority for the federal government, many child aid organizations were scratching their heads. “In the context of asylum, protection of children, and protection against sexual violence in particular, always lags behind,” Director of Research Rod Aboba of World Vision criticizes. “It’s seen as an add-on, as an add-on. But it’s not, because sexual violence can happen in all escapes, whether it’s in the clothing store or in the food supply.”

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