Sexual abuse

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Classification according to ICD-10
T74.2 Sexual abuse
T74.8 Other forms of abuse of persons
T74.9 Abuse of persons, unspecified
ICD-10 online (WHO version 2019)

Sexual abuse refers to sexual acts with minors or adults who are particularly at risk (e.g. sick, disabled , needy people, prisoners, patients who are in psychotherapy ), generally or under certain circumstances (see below) also with Consent of the person concerned as an offense or crime are punishable . In particular, the serious sexual abuse of children and the sexual abuse of children resulting in death are classified as crimes in Germany.

In Germany, since November 10, 2016, acts that have previously been punished as sexual abuse by incapable persons have been punished as sexual assault or rape .


Ideally, prevention must begin with both the potential victims and the potential perpetrators. While prevention work with potential perpetrators will probably only lead to long-term success, short-term success can be achieved on the part of the children. A comprehensive sex education that specifically addresses the issue of sexual abuse can provide development-oriented education. Social skills can also be developed. In professions in which adults are often in contact with children or the disabled, there are courses that are aimed at potential perpetrators.

Prevention work can take place in the form of parent education by teachers and educators at parents' evenings. This can address the lack of reliable information on sexual abuse. Prevention materials can also be used there that reflect the parenting behavior of the parents (e.g. saying no). Removing the taboo on the subject of “sexual abuse” can help victims talk about sexual and physical violence they have suffered. This reduces barriers and helps the children to overcome their speechlessness and feelings of guilt. In addition, an atmosphere of openness and clarity shifts the power imbalance in favor of the victims and discourages offenders.

The sociologist David Finkelhor , who carried out an extensive study on the effectiveness of prevention programs in 1984, pointed out that measures that rely solely on information and education do not work. On the other hand, programs in which the emotional and social skills of the children were additionally trained proved successful in the study . The distinction between good touch and bad touch, widely taught in American elementary schools, is only useful to children if they have a good understanding of their own feelings and can confidently identify what doesn't feel good . Victims can be encouraged through various approaches either to ward off the offense themselves or to later find the courage to report the perpetrator.

During the 2014 conference on sexual violence in wars, UN special envoy Angelina Jolie said: "The shame must lie with the perpetrator, not the victim".

One specific preventive measure that those affected are calling for is lockable housing in refugee camps (Hima Ali Adan from the “Save Somali Women and Children in Mogadishu” group).

Helpful principles in prevention work:

  • All people should be taken seriously. If someone says “no”, it's also a no. Children in particular are made clear that adults are not allowed to do everything and that adults are not always superior.
  • Mutual respect is exemplified in families and other groups of people . Nobody should behave obsequiously for the sake of “bravery”.
  • Sexuality and body-related issues should be lived and discussed openly. Your own body is considered valuable and beautiful.
  • Counseling offers from social institutions in the run-up to an intensive professional relationship, such as therapy, legal care or counseling relationships that are associated with a power imbalance, should be offered more intensively. The perception of supervision should be installed as a quality criterion on the part of social institutions as well as professional associations.

A more profound prevention is the therapy of victims, as they can sometimes later become perpetrators themselves.


The word abuse originally has two meanings: disperditio ( Latin for corruption, basic direction) and abusus ( Latin for consumption, exploitation, improper use). Sexual (gender) abuse is not to be understood as a “wrong” or “improper” use as abuse ( abusus ), but rather a way of acting and exercising human sexuality that is fundamentally wrong and wrong as a corruption and fundamental direction. The term child sexual abuse is often criticized because, according to today's understanding of language, it seems to imply that there is sexual use of children.

In social science, the term abuse is often extended to include acts that are not punishable but are morally condemned. Psychologically, abuse is understood when an action violates the victim's integrity and causes him or her psychological damage. The levels of legal, moral and psychological assessment do not necessarily have to match, but can also contradict each other in individual cases.

The concept of abuse of persons has been criticized in the area of criminal law . For Thomas Fischer , the designation implies that inadmissible use is made of a basic authorization in individual cases, which is an outdated and incomprehensible perspective. Rather, the sex offender abuses his or her social, physical and psychological dominance or a certain access to the children or other particularly vulnerable groups of people.

In the social science literature, in areas of work with the victims and in psychological contexts, the term sexual violence or, more specifically, sexualised violence is also used. The term sexualized is intended to indicate that aspects of violence do not have their origin in sexuality , but are expressed here through sexual acts. Abuse of power and narcissistic abuse are, in terms of the structure of the relationship, part of sexual abuse.

Similar terms

There are numerous other terms besides the term sexual abuse that are used side by side or synonymously in the literature. Very different definition approaches lead to a confusion of terms and definitions:

To date, there are no general definitions other than the legal definition. In order to define or delimit the terms nevertheless, numerous more or less controversial delimitation features are used.

In feminist contexts in particular , people usually speak of “sexual abuse of people”. This is intended to remedy the problem seen by the circles preferring this term that the term sexual abuse is used to assign an object status. In order to remedy the problem that exists according to this view, that the concept of sexual abuse ignores the perspective of abused people, some people speak of “sexualized abuse of people”.

Some abused people reject the self-categorization as "abused" because, according to their understanding, it means admitting that the "abusing" person succeeded in making them into an object that they never were - not even during the act. For these people and those who share their point of view, possible alternative names include: sexualized abuse, sexualized violence, sexual exploitation.

Criminal sanctioning

Legal situation in the Federal Republic of Germany

The legal interest protected by the provisions of the German Criminal Code is sexual self-determination . This can be violated by the act of abuse in two ways: on the one hand, an act can be carried out against or without the will of the victim, on the other hand, an act can be carried out apparently consensual, whereby the perpetrator, however, this apparent consent using the lack of consent competence of the Victim or a special relationship with his victim.

Acts against the will of the victim

Acting against the will of the victim using violence, threats with current danger to life or limb or taking advantage of a defenseless situation constitutes sexual coercion in the terminology of German criminal law (cf. Section 177 (5) StGB); Actions against the recognizable will of the victim without the last-mentioned prerequisites are punishable as sexual assault under Section 177 (1) of the Criminal Code, actions that exploit the victim's lack of or significantly limited ability to form or express an opposing will, exploiting a moment of surprise or exploitation of a sensitive evil threatened by resistance or coercion by threatening a sensitive evil as sexual assault according to Section 177 (2) StGB. Rape occurs when coitus or similar sexual acts are carried out, "especially if they are associated with penetration into the body" (Section 177 (6) No. 1 StGB) . While rape is a separate criminal offense in many legal systems (formerly also in Germany), the German legislature in the 33rd Criminal Law Amendment Act 1997 chose the concept that rape is a particularly serious case of sexual coercion (or since the 50th Criminal Law Amendment Act 2016 as well sexual assault).

If the perpetrator causes the victim's death at least recklessly through sexual assault or sexual coercion or rape , the qualifying element of Section 178 StGB provides for a prison sentence of no less than ten years or a life sentence.

Exploitation facts

The second group includes first of all those facts in which the victim is not in a position to grasp the significance of consent to the performance of sexual acts and to act accordingly because of their youth.

Child sexual abuse refers to sexual activity on or with a child. In Germany, children are understood to mean persons up to the age of 14, in other countries persons up to at least the age of 12 and at most up to the age of 18. In 2003 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that in the countries in which the case law of the Court of Justice is valid, the sexual self-determination of people over the age of 14 must be observed, an overly rigorous interpretation - especially § 182 - can be contrary to the Convention if an Austrian homosexual is prevented from developing his or her sexual desires, but the age of consent for heterosexuals has generally been interpreted more generously (see also Section 176 StGB ).

Sexual abuse of adolescents describes sexual acts mostly by adults with adolescents, which take place for remuneration or if the adolescent is not able to determine sexual self-determination and is exploited by the adult. Young people are generally considered to be people between the ages of 14 and 17, although the age ranges are more finely divided in terms of criminal liability in Germany (see also Section 182 of the Criminal Code ).

Sexual abuse of wards refers to sexual acts of a person with minors if there is an education, training or care relationship or service or employment relationship between the person and the minor or if the minor is a biological or legal descendant of the perpetrator, his Spouse or civil partner or a person living with him in a marriage-like or civil partnership-like community. This is a criminal offense in Germany under Section 174 of the Criminal Code.

If a teacher in a state school is suspected of sexual abuse, the school management is obliged to inform the school inspectorate. The principals of private schools, however, are not required in most states to inform the inspectorate and the district government, but usually only have the support of the school to give notification. However, private schools in North Rhine-Westphalia are obliged to report to the district government.

Sexual acts with addicts (Art. 188 StGB) and the exploitation of an emergency (Art. 193, Paragraph 1 StGB) are comparable in Switzerland .

Sexual abuse taking advantage of a special position

In professional or legal life, there can be a large number of superordinate and subordinate relationships, some of which are so significant for the underdog that self-determined consent to the performance of sexual acts can no longer be accepted. Therefore, sexual acts within certain relationships are generally punishable if they are carried out using such a position. This also applies to mutual consent. The following are to be named here:

Sexual abuse of prisoners, those in custody by the authorities or the sick and needy in facilities according to Section 174a StGB provides for those who engage in sexual acts with a person "who has been entrusted to them for upbringing, training, supervision or care" undertakes imprisonment from three months to five years before. A specific dependency is not necessary, but abuse cannot be derived from the custody relationship alone. Rather, the circumstances of the individual case must be taken into account in the assessment.

For abuse of an official position according to § 174b StGB, a person is punished with a custodial sentence of three months to five years who, as an official, is called to participate in criminal proceedings or a procedure aimed at a measure depriving their liberty and who is “misusing” one through this procedure induces sexual acts in a certain manner.

Abuse taking advantage of a counseling, treatment or care relationship under Section 174c of the Criminal Code finally sanctions sexual acts that are carried out within the framework of a qualified treatment relationship, for example between a doctor and patient. Up until 2004, only sexual acts with patients undergoing psychotherapy and with mentally or emotionally ill patients, for example in the context of medical therapy, were included . Since then, sexual acts with physically ill patients have also been included in the offense. The German Medical Association and the State Medical Associations as well as the Professional Association of German Psychologists emphasize that this is also the case with the consent of the patient.

However, this does not mean that every sexual act within a treatment relationship is automatically counted as sexual abuse. According to a decision by the Federal Court of Justice, it is relevant whether the position of authority or trust in a treatment relationship is used by the treating person to carry out sexual acts. In 2016, the Federal Court of Justice acquitted a doctor who had sexual relations with a patient. The patient was previously known to the doctor privately and had entered into both the treatment and the sexual acts with the aim of gaining access to prescription drugs.

Legal situation in the contracting states of the European Economic Area and Switzerland

Abuse taking advantage of a counseling, treatment or care relationship, i.e. sexual acts that are carried out within the framework of a qualified treatment relationship, for example between a doctor or psychotherapist and patient, are in all contracting states of the European Union Economic area and Switzerland , with the sole exception of Luxembourg .

Legal situation in the United States of America

Overall, the legal situation in the USA differs significantly from that in Europe. There, the age of consent is between 16 and 18 years, depending on the state.

The case law in the states is not uniform. In many, but not all states, there are additional regulations that limit the age differences of the parties involved by a maximum of 2–5 years (Utah: up to 10 years) provided that the sexual acts were carried out with mutual consent and that all persons involved are at least 14 –16 years old, have little or no punishment.

In the past, however, there have been spectacular cases in which, due to a special legal situation or interpretation, even minors were or should be sentenced to severe prison terms for "abuse" despite the obvious mutual consent.

Forms of abuse

Sexual abuse must be differentiated from sexual harassment , which, if it is committed without physical contact, is sometimes illegal, e.g. B. in terms of labor law, but (except for exhibitionism ) is not a criminal offense. Sexual harassment is a cause of termination in many companies. If sexual harassment is committed through physical contact, it is punishable in Germany according to Section 184i of the Criminal Code (Germany) (since November 10, 2016), in Liechtenstein according to Section 203 of the Criminal Code (Liechtenstein) , in Austria according to Section 218 of the Criminal Code (Austria) and in Switzerland according to Art. 198 Criminal Code (Switzerland) .



Criminal offenses in Germany
according to Section 13 of the StGB
year    Cases recorded
per calendar year
Cases recorded
per calendar year
per 100,000 inhabitants
1987 34 200 55.9
1988 36 768 59.9
1989 36 327 58.6
1990 37 592 60.0
1991 38 799 59.7
1992 39 392 59.9
1993 44 175 54.6
1994 45 339 55.7
1995 47 108 57.8
1996 49 080 60.0
1997 53 135 64.8
1998 53 720 65.5
1999 51 592 62.9
2000 52 099 63.4
2001 52 902 64.3
2002 53 860 65.3
2003 54 632 66.2
2004 57 306 69.4
2005 55 203 66.9
2006 52 231 63.4
2007 56 281 68.4
2008 56 784 69.1
2009 49 084 59.9
2010 46 869 57.3
2011 47 078 58.6
2012 45 824 56.9
2013 46 793 57.9
2014 46 982 57.9
2015 46 081 56.1
2016 47 401

In the 2009 reporting period, according to the police crime statistics of the Federal Criminal Police Office, 49,084 cases of criminal offenses against sexual self-determination were recorded in Germany. This includes 15,246 cases of sexual abuse (Sections 174 - 176b, 179, 182 StGB) and 13,361 cases of sexual assault and rape (Sections 177, 178 StGB), of which a total of 12,174 cases deal with criminal offenses against children. The clearance rate in 2009 was 79.7%. In the area of ​​sexual abuse to the detriment of children, the Federal Government is assuming a high number of unreported cases. According to the study published in February 2013 on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Living Conditions and Stresses of Women with Disabilities and Impairments in Germany , six percent of all disabled women who are cared for in German homes were sexually abused.

The number of cases includes all criminal offenses under Section 13 of the Criminal Code. This also includes the distribution of pornographic writings (Sections 184 to 184d), as well as arousing public nuisance (Section 183a) and exhibitionistic acts (Section 183). In addition to the actual change in crime, changes in criminal law, reporting behavior, statistical recording rules and the intensity of police controls can also influence the number of cases.

Most studies come to the conclusion that perpetrators of sexual abuse of children are predominantly male. The proportion of female perpetrators is given as 1 to 20 percent.


According to the answer to a parliamentary question by the Federal Ministry of the Interior, 3,826 sexual offenses were reported in Austria in 2009. This corresponds approximately to a case number of 45.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. The clearance rate for the criminal offense of rape (§ 201 Austrian Criminal Code) was 78.3%.


The Swiss police crime statistics for 2009 recorded 6,648 crimes against sexual integrity. The clearance rate in this area was 73.5%. In detail, 1,526 cases of sexual acts with children (Art. 187 chStGB), 666 cases of rape (Art. 190 chStGB), 142 cases of desecration (Art. 191 chStGB) and 617 cases of sexual assault (Art. 189 chStGB) detected. It is noticeable that a large number of the offenses mentioned were committed in private rooms.


Experiences such as sexual abuse often cause physical and emotional damage to the victims , which often leads to long-term mental disorders . These range from post-traumatic stress disorder to non-organic failure to thrive , depression and borderline personality disorder as well as dissociative disorders and dissociative identity disorder . The last three disorders mentioned are particularly often closely related to suffering from sexual abuse in childhood and adolescence. The consequences of sexual abuse in the context of psychotherapy are summarized in a separate complex of complaints, the therapist-patient-sex syndrome, the effects of which are comparable to the consequences of sexual abuse in children.

Not to be neglected are the effects that abuse can have on the victim's social environment. In particular, but not exclusively, love relationships (not least because of possible sexual disorders ) can be severely impaired. Problems in working life as a result of concentration disorders in the context of post-traumatic stress syndrome are also common.

Among other things, the American psychiatrist and psychotherapist Wayne Kritsberg dealt with the transmission of patterns of abuse, violence and illness to the next generation .

False suspicions

According to empirical studies, the proportion of false suspicions of sexual abuse is relatively low; the social scientist Sabine Kirchhoff estimates it at just under 2%.

An extensive article published in Die Zeit in 2003 documented the story of a false suspicion of abuse which two years later turned out to be unfounded. In 2012, the case of a mother from Schleswig-Holstein became known who deliberately accused her separated husband of sexual abuse of their children in order to obtain custody.

In the 1990s there were fierce controversies in the Federal Republic of Germany on the statistical frequency of sexual abuse, the public handling of the issue and judicial processing, which are known as abuse with abuse . The spectacular legal disputes include the Worms litigation and the Pascal litigation .


  • Jörg M. Fegert u. a .: Child sexual abuse - testimonials, messages, consequences . Results of the accompanying research for the contact point of the independent commissioner of the federal government for dealing with child sexual abuse, Dr. Christine Bergmann , Beltz Juventa 2013, ISBN 978-3-7799-2264-3
  • Gabriele Amann, Rudolf Wipplinger (Ed.): Sexual abuse. Overview of research, advice and therapy. A manual. 3. Edition. DGVT-Verlag, Tübingen 2005, ISBN 3-87159-044-4 .
  • Heidrun Bründel : Sexual violence in school institutions. Background, analysis, prevention. Publishing house for police science: Frankfurt am Main 2011, ISBN 978-3-86676-172-8 .
  • Heidrun Bründel: The view of developmental psychology. Important socialization experiences in the life of children and adolescents. In: Teaching & Learning. Journal for schools and innovation from Baden-Württemberg. Volume 37, Issue 2, 2011, pp. 12-19.
  • Heidrun Bründel: Sexual abuse: teachers as perpetrators and students as victims in secular and ecclesiastical institutions. In: Report Psychology. Vol. 35, Issue 9, 2010, pp. 381-392.
  • Herta Däubler-Gmelin , Dieter Speck: Sexual abuse. The loneliness of the victims. The helplessness of the judiciary. Droemer Knaur, 1997, ISBN 3-426-77350-3 .
  • Katharina Rutschky, Reinhart Wolff: Handbook Sexual Abuse. Rowohlt, 1999, ISBN 3-499-60598-8 .
  • Dirk Bange, Wilhelm Körner: Concise dictionary of sexual abuse . Hogrefe-Verlag, 2002, ISBN 3-8017-1188-9 .
  • Wilhelm Körner, Albert Lenz: Sexual abuse 1. Basics and concepts . Hogrefe-Verlag, 2004, ISBN 3-8017-1469-1 .
  • Erwin Möde : Sexual Abuse and Abused Father God. Edition Psychosymbolik, 1995, ISBN 3-925350-64-0 .
  • Erwin Möde: "Desir perverse and abuse: On the psychoanalysis of paidophilia - An exposé critical of religion" ( PDF file )
  • Federal Center for Health Education - BzgA -: body, love, doctor games. (published 2001–2007) with critical comments from the Cologne public prosecutor's office in 121 Js 395/07 with individual evidence of sexual acts .
  • Laura Davis: Allies. Handbook for the partners of survivors of sexual violence. Orlanda, 2008, ISBN 978-3-936937-57-2 .
  • Ellen Bass, Laura Davis: Despite everything. Ways to self-healing for women who have experienced sexual violence . Orlanda, 2006, ISBN 3-936937-42-7 .
  • Claudia Fliß, Claudia Igney: Handbook of ritual violence . Pabst, Lengerich 2010, ISBN 978-3-89967-644-0 .
  • Ursula Wirtz: Soul Murder - Incest and Therapy. 13th edition. Kreuz Verlag, 2001, ISBN 3-7831-1963-4 . A classic in terms of both child abuse and abuse in professional addiction situations
  • Hermann Häring, Anne Dyer: Sexual violence in the Catholic Church. In: Michael Klöcker, Udo Tworuschka (Hrsg.): Handbuch der Religionen (LotR) with annually four additional deliveries (EL). Landsberg / Munich since 1997, EL 26, 2010, chap. I-14.6.2 (Lit!)
    • Part 1: The situation of the perpetrators and their victims.
    • Part 2: Conditions of sexual violence in the Catholic Church. For renewing structures and minds.

Web links

Commons : Sexual Abuse  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. German therapists information on the judgment of the BGH
  2. Ulrich Tiber: Sexual abuse, mistreatment, neglect , p. 634
  3. Dirk Bange: Concise Dictionary Sexual Abuse , p. 426
  4. David Finkelhor, Jennifer Dziuba-Leatherman: Children as Victims of Violence: A National Survey. Pediatrics, October 1984.
  5. kle / nis: Jolie and Hague drum against sexual violence in wars. Editor = Deutsche Welle, June 10, 2014, accessed June 10, 2014 .
  6. Daniel Zybersztajn: confrontation with the anxiety. Summit against sexual violence. In: taz., June 10, 2014, accessed June 10, 2014 .
  7. U. Sarfert: Sexual contacts in psychotherapy. unpublished thesis
  8. German Dictionary , Volume 12.
  9. Thomas Fischer, Before Section 174 StGB, Term of Abuse, in: Criminal Code and Additional Laws, CH Beck, Munich 2011, Rn 8, pp. 1110–1111
  10. Definition of sexual abuse. Independent Child Sexual Abuse Officer , accessed July 30, 2017 .
  11. Dirk Bange: Concise Dictionary Sexual Abuse . Hogrefe Verlag, p. 49.
  12. European Court of Human Rights: CASE OF SL v. AUSTRIA (MS Word document) (English)
  13. Birger Menke, Christian Rath, Oliver Trenkamp: Lessons from the abuse scandal: Protection against the system of sin. Part 4: In the school inspectorate - what can be done against loopholes for pedophiles? March 17, 2010, accessed September 14, 2015
  14. Birgit Menke: Abuse of private schools: In the blind corner of the school supervision. Spiegel online , March 10, 2010, accessed September 14, 2015
  15. Sexual abuse in psychotherapy. (PDF; 50 kB) In: Information sheet. Professional Association of German Psychologists, archived from the original on March 9, 2016 ; Retrieved February 1, 2011 .
  16. Decision of the BHG: Decision of June 29, 2016 (1 StR 24/16)
  17. ^ A b Age of Consent by State., April 1, 2017, accessed September 19, 2017 .
  18. Police crime statistics, basic table, table 01. ( Memento from October 12, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) (Version from Internet Archive ).
  19. 1987-1990 West Germany, 1991-1992 including East Berlin, from 1993 all of Germany
  20. Police crime statistics 2009 Federal Republic of Germany. ( Memento of October 12, 2011 in the Internet Archive )   (PDF; 14.7 MB) on: (version from Internet Archive ).
  21. 13,000 registered cases of sexual abuse of children and adolescents in 2009. ( Memento from February 15, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) (Version from Internet Archive ).
  22. ↑ The life situation and stress of women with disabilities and impairments in Germany, study commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ), 2013
  23. Sexual violence in homes. Thousands of disabled women are abused , Frankfurter Rundschau, February 15, 2012
  24. Notes on the data - PKS time series 1987 up to and including 2011. ( Memento from December 4, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 120 kB, version from Internet Archive ) on:
  25. Jörg M. Fegert u. a .: Child sexual abuse - testimonials, messages, consequences. Results of the accompanying research for the contact point of the independent commissioner of the federal government for dealing with child sexual abuse, Dr. Christine Bergmann, Beltz Juventa 2013, ISBN 978-3-7799-2264-3 , p. 40
  26. Answer to: Sexual offenses in 2009 (PDF; 29 kB)
  27. ^ Police crime statistics (PKS) annual report 2009 ( Memento from March 31, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) . ( Memento of the original from March 31, 2010 in the Internet Archive ).
  28. Ronald J. Comer: Clinical Psychology. Spectrum, ISBN 3-8274-0592-0 .
  29. Michaela Huber: Multiple personalities, survivors of extreme violence. Fischer, ISBN 3-596-12160-4 .
  30. Jerry Edelwich, Archie Brodsky after Pope (88) : Sexual Dilemmas for the Helping Professional , Brunner-Routledge. March 1991, Revised & Expanded edition, ISBN 0-87630-628-8 , pp. 92ff.
  31. Linder, Thießenhusen: Overcoming abuse trauma together . Tectum-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-8288-9267-5 .
  32. Child witnesses in court. ( Memento from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) on:
  33. Sabine Rückert : The suspicion. - A single day destroys the life of a family in Saarland. Eight-year-old Lena is mistreated by her father, claims a strange woman from the neighborhood. The state machinery goes crazy: The child is snatched from the parents - and when the suspicion falls apart two years later, Lena no longer wants to go home. The time of: June 18, 2003
  34. Dependent forfeit the right to maintenance in the event of unjustified allegations of sexual abuse against their children