• Germany edition
 
Sex in Germany
'Legally, just saying no is not enough'
8,000 cases of rape and sexual assault are reported in Germany each year. Photo: DPA

'Legally, just saying no is not enough'

Published: 22 Nov 2013 16:01 GMT+01:00
Updated: 22 Nov 2013 16:01 GMT+01:00

The number of reported rapes and incidents of sexual assaults has stayed pretty consistent in Germany for 15 years, with around 8,000 reported each year from 1998 to 2012, according to Interior Ministry figures. In 2012, there were 8,031 reported, an increase of 6.5 percent on the year before.

But, as Katja Grieger from the government-funded Women Against Violence group (BFF) explained, German law defines rape only if the suspect uses physical violence or threatens their victim. “This means that repeated saying no during sex, or even screaming,” is not enough, a report from the organization states.

“This has to change,” Grieger told The Local, adding that she believed it would. While there was initial talk in parliament, no changes have been made despite campaigners pushing for reform to section 177 of the German Criminal Code to make the criteria for rape broader – echoing that of neighbouring European countries.

“Hopefully it will come up under the new coalition government,” she said.

The last in-depth, government-commissioned study into sex crime in Germany was done in 2004 and there have only basic government statistics released since then.

A ruling in a court in Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia in 2012 left campaigners in shock after a suspect was let off charges that he raped a 15-year-old girl because she “did not defend herself enough,” a statement from the court said. There was no physical proof it was not consensual sex.

But the fact that rape statistics have failed to decline over the past decade is not necessarily a bad thing in Grieger's eyes. “It shows that women are not becoming more scared to report rape,” she said.

She feels that as long as current legislature remains in place, the majority of rape victims will stay quiet. “Studies show just five percent of rapes are reported, so this figure should really be much higher,” she said.

‘The suspects have it easier than the victim’

As it stands in the German legal system, taking a rape case to court is a very lengthy process. “The suspects have it easier,” said Grieger. “We see a lot of mistrust from the authorities towards women who report assault.”

Indeed until 1997, rape inside a marriage was not legally considered rape in Germany.

The BFF are the main association which receives government funding to help female victims of violence and women who have experienced sexual assault – who in 2012 made up 95 percent of all reported cases. But it has three permanent staff for the whole of the country.

For others, opening up the legal classification of rape would be very difficult.

Veit Schiemann, a spokesman at the Weisser Ring group, an independent organization to help victims of crime, said: “How does a woman prove she said no? And how would a man prove that she said yes?”

He argued that broadening the definition of rape would make it harder to convict alleged attackers. “If there is violence used then it leaves a wound, like bruises,” said Schiemann, thus providing concrete evidence of the crime.

Changing the law would, he said, see the number of reported rapes go up but not the number of convicted rapists.

Rather than campaigning for legal reform, Weisser Ring try to stop sexual assault before it happens.

For the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Monday, the group is teaming up with the German Olympic Sports Confederation to promote self-defence. “Women should learn it,” said Schiemann.

Despite their differing views on the legislation, both Schiemann and Grieger agreed that talking about rape was a taboo in Germany.

“Sexual abuse has become more spoken about over recent years and we need the same attitude towards rape,” Schiemann said.

A starting point could be, said both Schiemann and Grieger, better training for police. “At this point not enough police are trained to deal with traumatized rape victims,” said Grieger. Government money is going into this, she said, but it is “just not enough.”

READ MORE: 'People talk about, not to prostitutes'

For more stories about Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter

Jessica Ware (jessica.ware@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Germany's estate agents plan strike action
Photo: DPA

Germany's estate agents plan strike action

First it was the pilots, then train drivers - now Germany's real estate agents are threatening to go on strike. But their call to arms has been met with sneers rather than sympathy. READ  

Finger slicer's insurance scam fails
Ralf-Werner arriving in court last week. Photo: DPA

Finger slicer's insurance scam fails

An insurance salesman who sawed off his own finger and thumb to claim insurance was given a suspended sentence by a court in northern Germany on Friday. READ  

PKK: banned in Germany, allies in Iraq
Kurdish demonstrators at a rally in Düsseldorf in October. Photo: DPA

PKK: banned in Germany, allies in Iraq

Germany finds itself in a complicated relationship with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). At home, police must investigate anyone who flies the flag, but in the Middle East they are the best hope of beating back the Islamic State. READ  

Quiz
Will our Halloween quiz give you a fright?
Walpurgis Night in the Harz. Photo: DPA

Will our Halloween quiz give you a fright?

Germany is home to a plethora of haunted castles and has a huge stock of gruesome stories. How well do you know the spooky side of the Germans? READ  

Retail sales show biggest drop for seven years
Photo: DPA

Retail sales show biggest drop for seven years

German shoppers cut back on their spending in September at the fastest rate for seven years, official data showed on Friday. READ  

Fall of the Wall - 25 years
'I'm leaving for the West, who's coming?'
Engels at the spot where he drove through the Wall and in hospital in 1963 after being shot. Photo: Nick Allen/Fotoarchiv Alex Waidmann Berlin

'I'm leaving for the West, who's coming?'

There are many of tales of ingenious and well-thought out escape plans from people desperate to flee from East to West Berlin. Wolfgang Engels’ wasn’t one of them. It was, however, one of the most daring. READ  

Police probe pupils who made Nazi salutes
Pupils used WhatsApp to share messages which are police are investigating. Photo: DPA

Police probe pupils who made Nazi salutes

Police are investigating pupils at a school in Saxony-Anhalt for incitement of the people and use of banned symbols after teenagers allegedly made the Hitler salute. READ  

Time running out for refugees in Berlin school
Representatives of the refugees at a press conference last week. Photo: DPA

Time running out for refugees in Berlin school

An ultimatum for the remaining refugees and their supporters to leave an occupied school in Berlin, which has been the scene of protests for months, will expire at midnight on Friday. READ  

EU promises support for Ukraine gas deal
Photo: DPA

EU promises support for Ukraine gas deal

The European Union will "fully play its role" to implement the gas deal signed by Ukraine and Russia on Thursday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande said in a joint statement. READ  

Body scanners to come to more airports
Photo: DPA

Body scanners to come to more airports

Passengers at German airports can expect a controversial full body scan in the future. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles from British Airways
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Want to study in Germany? These are the subjects to choose
Photo: DPA
Society
Germans are wide of the mark on immigration
Photo: DPA
Society
Halloween: Where are the spookiest spots?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Who wants to work in Germany? A third of the world
Photo: DPA
Society
'We can't allow a proxy war on German streets'
Sponsored Article
International School on the Rhine: a legacy
Photo: DPA
Society
QUIZ: How well do you know Germany?
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,530
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd