Johannes-Wilhelm Rorig at a press conference in January 2020 © Gregor Fischer
Nine years ago, Rorig, a lawyer, succeeded former Minister Bergmann as abuse commissioner. He made it clear that he will not rest on his laurels when it comes to sexualized violence. Also with the churches.
When the abuse scandal became public ten years ago, first in church institutions and then in other institutions as well, the federal government quickly convened a round table with ministers, scientists, churches and other representatives of civil society. And it appointed a commissioner for the topic of abuse. This was initially the former Minister for Family Affairs and SPD politician Christine Bergmann. She was succeeded in 2011 by the lawyer Johannes-Wilhelm Rorig, who was her office manager for a long time.
Those who thought at the time that politics and society could now quickly return to business as usual saw themselves deceived: with Rorig, who comes from Kassel and has lived in Berlin since the end of the 1980s, an uncomfortable admonisher entered the stage who had decided not to rest until something actually changed and adolescents were better protected from abuse. At the end of the current legislative period, Rorig wants to resign from office.
At the time, he did not realize how difficult the tasks were and what resistance he would have to overcome, he says. But he has always been able to act freely, according to the 61-year-old lawyer, who moved from Berlin's Red City Hall to the Ministry of Family Affairs when Bergmann took office as minister twenty years ago. No one had talked him into his work.
Involving those affected in the work right from the start
From the very beginning, it was important for him to involve those affected in his work, emphasizes Rorig. The biographies of the victims of sexualized violence always affected him anew, and at the same time he was able to draw positive energy for his work in order to fight against injustice and abuses. "Once you have dealt with the terrible violence that has been inflicted on children and young people, it hits you deeply and never lets you go."
This was also experienced by the institutions and associations in whose ranks abuse occurred: Rorig did not leave it at admonishing, but made sure that they had to move. He negotiated agreements on prevention, and repeatedly insisted on independent investigations. Rorig ensured that a council of affected persons was set up and that affected persons could turn to an independent reappraisal commission.
Laws were also changed, not least in response to his demands: Politicians raised criminal statutes of limitations for perpetrators of abuse and reformed regulations so that criminal justice authorities have better ways to track offenders. Rapid assistance was set up for those affected; last year, the Bundestag passed the new Victim Compensation Act, which makes it easier for victims of abuse to get support.
Rorig shows staying power with churches
With regard to the churches, Rorig, who is a long-distance runner in his spare time, proved to have staying power: His expertise was in demand when the guidelines on protection against abuse were revised.
But that's not all: He himself says he reached a milestone last summer with the Catholic bishops when they passed an agreement for a structural reappraisal. A similar step is planned for the Protestant Church in the coming year.
The Commissioner for Abuse campaigned for his office, as well as the institutions of the Processing Commission and the Council of Victims of Abuse, to be made permanent. In addition, he repeatedly interfered in current debates: just a few days ago, he criticized Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki for his handling of a reappraisal report and insisted on transparency and the participation of those concerned.
As goals for the remaining term of office Rorig calls among other things a legal anchorage of its office and the mechanism of abuse representatives in the Lands of the Federal Republic. The topic must remain present and should not only be put on the agenda during terrible events such as the cases of abuse in Munster or Bergisch-Gladbach. What Rorig himself will do in the future is still unclear. He wants to "face new challenges", it is said.