What is Child Abuse?
Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional mistreatment or neglect of a child.
Reporting a Suspicion in Germany
When there is a reasonable suspicion of abuse and there is no trustworthy person of authority to approach, the first necessary step would be to contact and inform the nearest German youth department (Jugendamt). Provided there is no immediate danger to a child’s life or physical wellbeing, German youth/social services authorities generally advise to refrain from reporting it to a police/law enforcement office. The youth offices have been officially appointed by state and federal law to be the responsible authority for child welfare.
What Actions are Performed by the Jugendamt
Once the Jugendamt has been informed and is reasonably convinced that child abuse has occurred, they will form a “task force” to evaluate the potential/perceived risk to the child and how to proceed. They might include the child’s guardian/custodian/parent(s) in the working group, provided they are not the subject(s) of the investigation. In cases where there is suspected physical or sexual abuse, a medical examination is generally performed by a pediatrician or hospital.
If the Jugendamt deems it necessary, they will call upon the family court to issue a protection order. In case of immediate danger, the Jugendamt is authorized to take the child into their care without such an order. The Jugendamt is also appointed to include other government institutions, such as the health department or the police. (Sozialgesetzbuch (SGB VIII) Kinder- und Jugendhilfe).
Child abuse cases are prosecuted by the district attorney. During prosecution the child victim is normally expected to testify, but this can be done without the defendant present and/or in a taped testimony. The child has the right to have a trusted adult present (parent, guardian, etc.) and the court will make special accommodations for the child in order to minimize the trauma of testifying. Family courts will also supply separate rooms and temporary care givers to assist during a trial. When abuse is confirmed, there are different levels of help available: Immediate intervention to stop the abuse (such as the removal of the child or the go-order, to remove the perpetrator from the family home) and the pre- and post assistance on an out-patient basis (counseling, therapy by organizations like Wildwasser or certified child therapists).
Victim Support Organizations:
DISCLAIMER: The U.S. Department of State assumes no responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the organizations whose names appear below. This referral does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of the U.S. Department of State.
Non-profit victim’s relief organization assisting crime victims and their families in accessing available resources nationwide.
Non-profit organization assisting sexually abused children and responsible family members by locating resources for assistance across Germany. Only in German.
Non-profit organization offering assistance to children, youth, and adults who have been sexually abused, and also providing guidance and advice to friends and family members.
For general information on child abuse or neglect, click here
Last Updated: October 22, 2020