• 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
'German' hand grenades paraded by Isis in Syria
A screen grab from a jihadist video showing the grenades. Photo: DPA

'German' hand grenades paraded by Isis in Syria

The German military was on Wednesday investigating reports that Bundeswehr hand grenades have fallen into the hands of the Islamic State (Isis) terrorist group after a video appearing to show captured weapons surfaced on the Internet. READ  

North braces for storms and floods
Early signs of flooding at the Hamburg fish market on Wednesday morning.

North braces for storms and floods

The remnants of hurricane Gonzalo have drifted across the Atlantic and are now threatening North German cities with flooding, forecasters warned on Wednesday. READ  

Indian schools drop German teaching
Indian pupils enrolled in German classes prepare for Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's visit to their school. Photo: DPA

Indian schools drop German teaching

Thousands of children in India will no longer be taught German after the country's education ministry allowed a contract to lapse. READ  

Syria-bound US teens stopped in Frankfurt
A passenger plane landing at Frankfurt airport. Photo: DPA

Syria-bound US teens stopped in Frankfurt

Three teenage girls from Colorado were arrested by German police at Frankfurt airport after running away from home, reportedly on their way to join Isis in Syria. READ  

Tourists stranded on cable car over Rhine
Tuesday night's rescue operation Photo: DPA

Tourists stranded on cable car over Rhine

Six people, including a family and two American tourists, were left dangling 40 metres in the air over the Rhine for hours late on Tuesday after Cologne's cable car came to a halt. READ  

7:1! Bayern celebrate record in Rome
Arjen Robben celebrates the first goal against AS Roma. Photo: DPA

7:1! Bayern celebrate record in Rome

Bayern Munich were elated on Tuesday night after seuring a 7-1 victory against Roma in their group stage Champions League clash. READ  

Nazi U-boat wreck found off US coast
A preserved World War II U-Boat on the beach near Kiel, Germany. Photo: DPA

Nazi U-boat wreck found off US coast

A World War II German U-boat and an American merchant vessel it sank in battle have been found deep in the ocean off the coast of North Carolina, officials said on Tuesday. READ  

Fourth time lucky for free Berlin WiFi?
Coming soon? Photo: DPA

Fourth time lucky for free Berlin WiFi?

Berlin's bid to set up a free city-wide wireless network has so far come to nothing. But city bosses are now trying for a fourth time - and hope to have the project running next year. READ  

Opinion
Do German unions have too much power?
Lufthansa passengers rush to change their flights at Frankfurt Airport on Monday. Photo: DPA

Do German unions have too much power?

Germany's pilots and train drivers are taking it in turns to bring the country to a standstill with strikes that have cost the economy tens of millions of euros in the last two weeks. Are unions abusing their power or standing up for their rights? READ  

Older workers can have extra days off, court says
Photo: Workers in a German shoe factory. Photo: DPA

Older workers can have extra days off, court says

Older workers in Germany are allowed more time off than younger ones, a court ruled on Tuesday, saying the difference was not discriminatory. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: Fitzpatrick family
Society
'We still don't know what happened to Matthew'
Photo: Mariana Schroeder
Munich
Special Report: Hope and chaos at Munich's refugee shelters
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Robbers blow up Berlin bank
Photo: DPA
Culture
Can you top our history quiz leaderboard?
Photo: Facebook
Society
German motorcycle gang joins Isis fight
Photo: DPA
Politics
UKIP ‘seeks EU pact’ with German satirical party
Photo: DPA
Gallery
PHOTOS: World's biggest erotic fair opens in Berlin
Photo: DPA/Shutterstock
Gallery
11 things Germans are afraid of...
Sponsored Article
International School on the Rhine: a legacy
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The ten richest people in Germany
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

3,488
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd