Investigating past sexual violence is an essential aspect in combating abuse, together with prevention, intervention and help. As opposed to criminal proceedings, it is not about convicting and sentencing a perpetrator, because the cases are often statute-barred. It is all the more important for the survivors that their suffering is nevertheless seen and acknowledged and that society learns from these cases just what made abuse possible in the past and what reaction or help failed to materialise and why - and what are the consequences with regard to combating abuse that must be drawn from these findings.
We can essentially differentiate between three forms of investgation, even though they are not strictly separated from each other and can actually overlap:
Specific investigation is about an individual who has suffered abuse and how he or she can deal with the experience and, if possible, also overcome it. This could include talking about the past injustice, in a private or even in a public setting, but also in the context of therapy. The payment of "compensation", which survivors can apply for in an ecclesiastical context, could also be part of an individual's investigation process.
Institutional investigation is the structural examination of sexual violence within an institution (e.g. in a church congregation or a sports club). In addition to the frequency of cases of abuse in the involved institution, it also deals with the factors that abetted in-house sexual abuse and how the survivors, as well as the perpetrators, were dealt with.
Social investigation aims to bring the topic of sexual violence in childhood and adolescence more into public focus and then create a better understanding within society of how to deal with the abuse issue. It is also intended to help improve the conditions for survivors, i.e. with regard to therapy and support.
Investigation in Germany
Investigating sexual abuse is a duty for society as a whole. Greater public awareness of the issue is helping more and more survivors to find the courage and talk about what they have experienced and to even address it openly. Public, ecclesiastical and private bodies are gradually becoming aware of their responsibility to clarify the background of sexual violence. More and more institutions and organisations are authorising independent research institutes or commissions to investigate their past. UBSKM supports this development and continues to move it forward - on the one hand through the important work of its Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in Germany, which has been working since 2016, and on the other hand, through concluding specific agreements with institutions such as the church.
Here you will find an overview of the investigation reports that have been published in various contexts since 2010:
Here you will find an overview of currently ongoing investigation projects:
Sexual violence against children and adolescents is happening all over the world. Countries such as Australia, Canada and Ireland have been investigating sexual abuse in state, ecclesiastical and private institutions since the 1990s. Commissions have now been established in many places to listen to the survivors and to historically investigate the injustices that occurred.
You can find an overview of these commissions and their work assignments on the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse‘s website.