The current debate about sexual abuse is too much about the past, says Child Protection League President Heinz Hilgers. "But missing out are tens of thousands of children who will suffer the same fate in 2010," he criticized to our site. He is also skeptical about the planned round table.
this site: Are children less at risk of abuse today?
Hilgers: No, that is so that we also ame – and here also the professional associations agree – that the number of children who are sexually abused in the social close, that is, by their confidants and known persons, will also be between 80 and 120,000 children in 2010. Exact figures cannot be given, because there is a high number of unreported cases.
this site: So why don't more current cases come to public attention?.
Hilgers: Yes, of course it is the case that children who are sexually abused in their own family remain silent and sometimes blame themselves. Unjustly, as children who suffer violence in the family do, there is a good portion of shame involved. And then, of course, there is the threat of the father, for example, who then says: "If you tell anyone what I have done or am doing to you, you'll go to a home and I'll go to jail, and the whole family will fall apart." That is the threat, and then of course the children need people in whom they can confide and in whom they can also reliably entrust themselves.
this site: And that brings us to the measures that are being taken at the moment. You are rather dissatisfied; you say for example: With round tables, as they are announced now, the problem cannot be solved. Why not?
Hilgers: Yes, one time it is strange: now everybody makes a round table. Started with four, now you're at three. If, then they should sit down at one table. But I think it goes without saying that when politicians want to make new laws, they should listen to the professional public. It is a mistake to believe that round tables are solutions.What we need are first of all a few measures in politics. I am in favor of bringing the civil statute of limitations, which unfortunately is only three years, into line with the criminal statute of limitations. As far as criminal law is concerned, I would advise caution, because it is very difficult to prove a matter in the criminal law sense that occurred more than twenty years ago and then still in one's own childhood. But the next point that needs to be made urgently is that the demand of the many counseling centers and child protection centers in our country is put on a reliable basis. At the moment, it is more likely that these institutions, where children can confide in, will have to face drastic further cuts because the municipal budgets in many places are at the end of their tether. This is, of course, the opposite of what is needed now, because now is the time when more people take courage to admit their fate.
this site: First of all, public contact points are important to prevent child abuse or to help when it has happened. But how else could you prevent child abuse, also in dealing with children, what do you have to teach them?
Hilgers: Of course we need the children. The typical perpetrator-victim relationship is such that the pedophilic perpetrator also feasts on the weakness of his victim, and very strong children are less likely to be victims of abuse, and not so quickly. Therefore: Let us raise strong children! And the second thing is that of course we listen to the children, we take them seriously. This is very important – in the families but also in the institutions – it happens far too often that after a discussion following sexual abuse, the teacher is still there, but the student has been transferred to another school. Of course, this is also seen by other students. And then they continue to keep silent, and that's where we have to break the silence by listening openly to the children. The last point is: We must finally understand that children are not our property, not even the property of their parents! Children are human beings, not legal objects, but legal objects with their own human dignity and their own fundamental rights. And it is high time that Germany finally commits itself to this and that the Bundestag and the Bundesrat take the rights of children, as they are internationally recognized in the UN Convention, into the Basic Law and thus make them direct German law. This is a question of our self-image, our mission statement and our consciousness.The conversation was conducted by Heike Sicconi.