“By abolishing the limitation periods, all old cases for which proof is possible could be investigated, and it would send a clear signal to society that violence is not considered acceptable and that victims are not forced to remain silent,” the association writes.
This is important not only for the victims, but also for the accused, according to netzwerkB, which describes itself on its website as “affected persons standing up for the rights of those affected by breaking social silence.”
In Germany, the statute of limitation for sexual offences ranges from three to 30 years.
But placing a time limit for victims on opening up about a sexual offence and reporting it is not adequate, netwerkB argues, as this “denies them the experience of justice and compensation.”
In this way, while the #MeToo debate has become an “outcry of the masses,” it could also lead to the abolition of the presumption of innocence, the letter states.
Though it is courageous for individuals to break their silence and publicly say what they dared not say for a long time due to shame or fear of consequences, the #MeToo movement appears to be more of “an act of helplessness” because of the legal challenges to prosecuting such offences.
NetzwerkB further write that it is easy to jeopardize or even destroy the reputation and career of someone accused of sexual assault, especially via social media. But the focus must move away from punishing the perpetrators and “towards an honest examination of what has happened.”
#MeToo refers to a hashtag that was started on Twitter in October to encourage women to come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment after several actresses alleged that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had sexually assaulted them.
But while the debate has taken off over the past few months in countries such as the US and Sweden, Germany has not yet seen the same scale of reports of sexual wrongdoing.
On whether the campaign still has the potential to really take off in Germany, psychologist and professor Sonja Sackmann at the Bundeswehr University in Munich told The Local she is hopeful but has her doubts.
“We still have a long way to go,” she said.