• Germany's news in English

'Legally, just saying no is not enough'

Jessica Ware · 22 Nov 2013, 16:01

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

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

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.

Story continues below…

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 news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Jessica Ware (jessica.ware@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Munich taxi driver in hospital after attack by British tourists
Photo: DPA

A taxi driver had to be hospitalized in Munich on Monday evening after three British tourists refused to pay their fare and then attacked him.

German police carry out nationwide anti-terror raids
Police outside a building in Jena during raids on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Police forces in five German states carried out raids on Tuesday morning with the aim of tackling the financing of terror groups, police in Thuringia have reported.

The Local List
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Photo: DPA

So you've mastered German, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

Iconic German church being eroded away by human urine
Ulm Minster towering over the rest Ulm surrounding the Danube. Photo: Pixabay

It will now cost you €100 to spend a penny. That’s if you get caught choosing to pee against the world-famous Ulm Minster.

German small arms ammo exports grow ten-fold
Photo: DPA

The government has come in for criticism after new figures revealed that Germany exported ten times the quantity of small arms ammunition in the first half of 2016 as in the same period last year.

14-year-old stabs 'creepy clown' in prank gone wrong
File photo: DPA.

A 16-year-old in Berlin decided he wanted to scare some friends, but his plot backfired in a violent way.

Four Ku Klux Klan groups active in Germany, says govt
An American member of the KKK at a gathering in Georgia. Photo: EPA.

The German government estimates that there are four Ku Klux Klan (KKK) groups currently active in the country, according to a report by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Tuesday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder to mediate in supermarket row
Gerhard Schröder. Photo: DPA

Can Gerhard Schröder bring an end to the Kaiser's Tengelmann saga?

Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd