Rape trial of sergeant shines spotlight on sexual assault in German army

Rape trial of sergeant shines spotlight on sexual assault in German army
A Germany military beret. Photo: DPA
The trial of a staff sergeant on a rape accusation that started Thursday has highlighted a problem that appears to be on the rise in the German army - sexual assault of female soldiers.

The 46-year-old sergeant standing trial in Gera is accused of sexual assault and rape. 

He is alleged to have blackmailed a female soldier into having sex with him by threatening to publish nude pictures of her. So far, three more trial dates until mid-September are planned.

The trial highlights a trend in the Bundeswehr – a rise in the number of reported sexual assaults.

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In 2014, 64 cases were reported. Last year that number had risen to 345, according to the Bundestag's commissioner for the armed forces, Eva Högl. 

This year there are signs of a decrease – so far the number stands at 131.

“This (the decrease) could be corona-related,” said Högl. “More soldiers are in home office, and there are no parties with alcohol.”

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“These days, these incidents are generally reported, and those affected are probably more willing to report them,” Högl stated. 

The Social Democrat MP, who became army commissioner earlier this year, says she is convinced the Bundeswehr takes accusations seriously and investigates them “thoroughly.”

She added that the accusations do not always turnout to be true.

Högl also denied that the male-dominated structures of the army encourage sexual assault.

“The only thing that can be ascertained is that increased alcohol consumption – just like in the rest of society – leads to increased sexual harassment,” she stated. “In addition, many assaults are committed in or after a relationship.”

While admitting that no concrete studies have been done on sexual assault in uniform, Högl said she believes that such assaults do not occur more frequently in the Bundeswehr than in the rest of society.


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