On sexual abuse in Germany

You might have read my posts on Twitter on the shitty German laws when it comes to sexual abuse and worse. While many people (even anarchists) call for law enforcement right now to help them form an opinion, this is the worst idea. Coming with a trigger warning, here’s why:

You’ve probably also read the stories on jacobappelbaum.net. There’s a fair chance some events took place in Germany but unfortunately, right now, I don’t think any of this would lead to a sentence. Yes, forced kisses, even forced intercourse are not necessarily punished by the courts. How bad is it?

Right now, there’s an ongoing case of one woman who was sentenced to pay 24,000 Euros because she lost her case and was accused of false accusations. The attackers taped their assault and it was sent to media outlets as a „rape tape“. Many people who saw it, went to the police. But Gina-Lisa Lohfink only said “stop it” a couple of times and looked like she might pass out and right now, that’s not enough for a conviction. Add to that, that she’s a reality TV star and promoted safer sex for an erotic fair and you get press coverage full of slut-shaming.

Germany has also hotly debated the case of a teenage girl in 2012. She went to see a friend who was visited by her ex-boyfriend and another friend, too. The guy was known to be violent. At one point, he sent the women into the basement to have sex with the girl. She said „no“ but again, that was not enough for the court to rule it a rape. Because he did not lock the flat and she could have tried to run away. She didn’t because she was afraid and for good reason: he later beat up his ex-girlfriend. A crime, for which he was actually sent to jail.

If you look for cases when a rapist gets sentenced, it’s really the worst of the worst. When a guy explicitly tells a 13-year-old it’s either sex or he is going to beat up her boyfriend. Or when the victim jumps out of the window to flee after the attack.

The law requires a rape to be violent but law enforcement personnel usually only has a blurry concept of this violence, as law professor Ulrike Lembke stated in 2011. While there are 30 years of research on sexual abuse, police, prosecutors and jugdes still rely on gender stereotypes, sex myths and victim-blaming tropes, according to her. Yet, attitudes are changing. In 1997, raping your spouse was finally criminalized. But as more victims have come forward, conviction rates have dropped. About 20 years ago, 21.6% of reported rapes led to a conviction. In 2012, the number was down to 8.4% and, as Lembke noted, sentences were often quite lenient.

German feminist activists have called for a law reform for some time. The debate was picked up again after the events in Cologne on New Year’s Eve and other cities. Groups of men were apparently pick-pocketing and assaulting women. Since then, the country has discovered that only one of these accusations is actually a crime. And because many attackers were described as non-white the law on asylum seeking has been tightened while groping is still legal and wasn’t even included in the latest reform draft.

So, if you want to rely on German law enforcement to tell you when someone did something wrong, you’re looking at a broken system that has been failing victims of sexual assaults for years. You’re even putting them in danger of being sued for defamation. Do you really want that?

PS: It’s different at workplaces. There, you can be sued for putting a pin-up calendar on the wall or even making a sexual joke.