Symbolic image of abuse, shadow of a cross © Taigi (shutterstock)
Katarina Sorensen was abused as a child by her pastor for almost ten years. Now she is fighting for her case and others in the Protestant church to be dealt with – at state and federal level.
It has been over 20 years since Katarina Sorensen was sexually harassed and abused by the pastor of her church congregation. Now the affected person, who wants to remain anonymous and therefore appears under this pseudonym, goes public. Together with the Protestant regional church of Hanover, on 6. July at a press conference in Seevetal, Lower Saxony, Katarina Sorensen reported on her case. Nearby, in a parish in Nenndorf in the district of Harburg, a former pastor allegedly abused her between 1988 and 1997. Sorensen was 15 years old when the attacks began; the cleric, who has since died, was in his mid-40s.
Committed to youth work
"The pastor was very well known for his committed youth work," reports Sorensen. In the context of excursions and camps, he had committed the sexual abuse. She was not his only victim: "There is another victim in our congregation and there are others with whom he at least tried."
The clergyman had first approached the girls cautiously – for example by hugging or massaging them – and then crossed boundaries. Sorensen did not find this pleasant, but wanted to be "loved and seen" by the pastor. "I knew that if I said something against him, he could ostracize me from the group very quickly."In the meantime, she said, she was certain that he had planned from the beginning to commit sexual assaults on young girls.
The processing of the case has been going on for some time. In 2015, Sorensen turned for the first time to the regional church, after she had long been looking for a suitable contact person. The church paid her a year later a compensation payment of 35.000 euros. But Sorensen continued to make the case for a further reappraisal of her story and other abuse cases afterward.
Even though the person affected now appears together with the church, she evaluates the cooperation quite critically: "For me, the path of coming to terms in the church was rather stony." Without support from other places, she would not have gone through the process, she says. Only in the past two years, he said, has it become much easier within the church to talk about the ie.
Courage to go public
Sorensen also addressed the Independent Commission on Child Sexual Abuse, before which she reported her case in 2018. In 2019, she described her story in a guest article in "Die Zeit" – without naming the church congregation and pastor in question. The fact that she is now making the case completely public was a conscious decision and took a lot of courage. "I want there to be an awareness that it happened."
Cooperation in dealing with abuse
In the meantime, Sorensen also advises the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) on dealing with abuse. There, among other things, she helped establish an independent point of contact for those affected by abuse. According to her own information, she has applied to serve on the EKD's victim advisory board, which is scheduled to begin its work this summer. "I hope that this panel will get a reasonable mandate."
The church, she demands, must in particular improve the structures that make it possible for those affected to come forward. Contact persons must be clearly named and properly trained. Finally, he said, there are many more victims who have not yet found the courage to talk about their cases.
In Nenndorf, Sorensen's commitment has already led to another victim contacting the regional church some time ago. Two more alleged victims of the pastor came forward after the press conference was announced. Oberlandeskirchenrat Rainer Mainusch thanked Sorensen for her courage in making the case public and called on others affected to come forward. According to church information, there are indications that the clergyman at least molested women during his assignment in Wolfsburg, which lasted from 1972 to 1986.