“Creating protection and rapid help”

The Round Table against Child Abuse will meet for the first time on Friday. Former SPD Family Affairs Minister Christine Bergmann will participate as the federal government's independent commissioner for dealing with abuse cases. The Catholic News Agency (KNA) spoke with her on Thursday in Berlin about the tasks and goals of the body.

CBA: Ms. Bergmann, what do you expect from the Round Table??
Bergmann: It is a great opportunity to better protect children from sexual abuse in the future. For the first time, representatives of all relevant social groups and associations from politics, the Church and society will come together to review cases from the past and improve protection and prevention.
CBA: What will be your task?
Bergmann: First of all, we are a contact point for victims, relatives or people who know about cases of abuse. This concerns both the past and acute cases of abuse. Then we want to contribute to the reappraisal of the topic on the basis of our own findings as well as already existing experience and scientific findings. To this end, we are already conducting many discussions with counseling centers, initiatives and experts. From this we will then develop recommendations and present them to the federal government. This will also involve assistance for victims, both material and immaterial.
CBA: According to information from the Federal Criminal Police Office, the public prosecutor's office receives around 15.000 cases of abuse known. The number of unreported cases is estimated to be well over 100.000 estimated. Shouldn't such a body have been convened much sooner?
Bergmann: Society must first be sensitized to these ies. Now the occasion was the disclosure of the massive cases in the institutions. This applies to church educational institutions as well as to many other institutions and schools. In recent years, quite a bit has already been set in motion against abuse. The public debate shows, however, that this is not enough.
CBA: What are the concrete areas of concern??
Bergmann: The public focus at the moment is mainly on abuse in institutions, as well as cases that often go back a long way. However, experts ame that around 90 percent of child abuse takes place in the family environment. Other areas include sports and youth facilities.
CBA: Is sexual abuse still a taboo subject in Germany?
Bergmann: In the meantime, people in society are talking about it, but they are not yet open about it. There are still "silence cartels" in institutions that protect themselves and say that this damages our good reputation. But even in families it is often very difficult to admit that such things happen. The ones who suffer are the children. We must make it clear that they have a right to a non-violent upbringing and protection from sexual violence and exploitation.
CBA: What will the ie of protection and prevention be about?
Bergmann: We will have to see exactly where we need more counseling centers, where there are gaps and how institutions deal with them. It is important to have contact points, especially in institutions, so that affected children no longer remain helpless. It is also important to provide further training for teachers and daycare educators, for example, on how to recognize whether a child is being abused and how to deal with it. At the same time, it will be a question of criteria for selection in both the full-time and voluntary sectors. Finally, it must be examined whether existing legal regulations are sufficient.
CBA: What about the ie of coming to terms with it?
Bergmann: For me, the worst thing is when older people describe how they have looked for help in vain. It is especially important for them that we publicly acknowledge their suffering and name and hold accountable those who are responsible for it. Although one will not be able to prevent everything in the future. But we must at least ensure that those affected find help quickly. Interview: Christoph Scholz

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