The perpetrators are often the fathers

Status: 07.09.2021 1:36 p.m

A recent study shows how difficult it is to recognize sexualized violence in the family. Because the perpetrators are usually the fathers – and they often manage to maintain the appearance of normality.

In cases of abuse in the family environment, according to the victims, their parents are the perpetrators most often. This is the result of a study presented by the Independent Commission for the Study of Child Sexual Abuse. Accordingly, almost every second perpetrator (48 percent) is the biological father, stepfather or foster father. Overall, the study accounts for 87 percent male and 13 percent female perpetrators. Those affected also named uncles, brothers, grandfathers and other male and female relatives – mothers, stepmothers and foster mothers make up ten percent of the perpetrators.

According to the information, 870 confidential hearings and written reports were evaluated for the study “Sexual violence in the family. Social processing of sexual violence against children and young people from 1945 to the present”. It is the result of a five-year research project and was created to accompany the work of the review commission. The research project was carried out by scientists from the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main.

Rarely interventions in the family from outside

The majority of the victims were female – only about ten percent were boys and male adolescents. Those affected were threatened, beaten or downright beaten up by the perpetrators. Other family members, especially mothers, often did not believe or help them and condoned the abuse.

Many victims experienced the violence from more than one person within and outside the family. For almost every second child, the abuse began before the age of six and lasted for many years. Their torment was rarely ended by outside intervention. The scientists see an explanation in the fact that the reluctance to intervene in family matters is particularly great, not only among private individuals but also among youth welfare workers.

Children cannot simply leave family

The perpetrators often succeed in maintaining the appearance of normality. The children are therefore dependent on an attentive environment and must be able to rely on the fact that the protection of privacy does not lead to them being vulnerable themselves, the authors of the study explained.

A major difference to other crime contexts is that children usually cannot simply leave their families like they can leave a sports club. At the same time, those affected reported that they had repeatedly tried to escape the violence. Some spoke of suicidal thoughts, many ran away from home. According to the scientists involved, further processing steps are necessary.

Among other things, on the basis of reports from those affected, it must be clarified how youth welfare offices have acted and whether and how help has been effective. The Commission recently commissioned a case study on this.

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