How are children now victims of fashion?

Forced to be silent GDR taboo subject: sexual abuse of children

What about the processing today?

For a long time there was no systematic processing of sexual abuse in the GDR. This is only happening for the first time in 28 years. But the victims haven't just started talking today. Just nobody listened to them. It still takes time to make really reliable and generally valid statements.

I myself fought for years to clarify sexual abuse in the GDR - also for the necessary research funds. Viewed retrospectively, it was only sporadically reported in public and in the press. Cases in East Germany were also very rarely discussed. It is therefore important at the moment that the victims have their say and can express themselves. But that is still far too little and only a first step. The topic needs to be discussed much more in public.

What are the differences when it comes to child abuse in the East and West?

Much will be similar from the victims' perspective. Abuse is abuse, violence is violence. Much is different only at second glance: In the GDR there was state-operated silence, i.e. a taboo that was adhered to by the entire state apparatus. A victim who turned to a teacher or FDJ employee, for example, had to expect to be put under pressure to prevent anything from being made public.

Sexual abuse has occurred more frequently in so-called "special homes". In these homes, the focus was on re-education. Children and young people between the ages of six and 18 who did not fit into the socialist system or who had behavioral problems came here. There was military drill, the children were absolutely isolated and the educators tried to break the children through pressure to perform so that they obey reflexively. They received little visitors, if only once every two months. The children also had to work in companies without being paid for it. There were around 30 such homes in mostly small villages all over the GDR. They made up about a third of the total number of homes. The others were "normal homes" for orphans, where it was less strict.

What made the homes so vulnerable to abuse?

There are several reasons for this: On the one hand, it is due to the fact that some teachers who had already attracted attention have been transferred there as a punishment. On the other hand, a climate has developed in the isolated homes that corresponds to that of a sect. In this climate, the pathological is no longer noticed. In addition to sexual abuse, there was also excessive alcohol and violence in such homes. The authority of the educators was passed on to the children among themselves. There are also cases in which younger children were kept as pleasure boys by older ones.

Which structures prevented the education?

If children were abused in this situation, it was a hopeless situation for them. In this context there were also several suicides, mainly by girls. Most of the home children in the GDR have suffered damage, such as post-traumatic stress disorders. And whoever was released had to sign a confidentiality agreement. What happened in the homes was not allowed to leak out - neither from the children nor from the educators. Many then kept the silence. This is how the taboo worked.

What was it like in the family environment?

In the families, the taboo was similar. For example, if the perpetrator was with the Stasi, the case was mostly dealt with internally. Nothing was allowed to leak out. The same applies to the employees of the police and the entire GDR power apparatus. It was not uncommon for the perpetrators to be expelled from the power apparatus after the questioning, but not prosecuted any further. This gave the population the impression that there was almost no sexual abuse in the GDR.

How did you deal with affected children and adolescents?

This is a completely new area for us. But my colleagues and I have so far had the impression that nothing really happened. In some cases there was psychological support. But we don't know the scope or the quality. Efforts were made not to injure the children further, but mostly there was no trained staff.

How do the numbers compare to the west?

Officially there was no sexual abuse in the GDR. And today it is difficult to compare the numbers we have with those of the former FRG because it was categorized differently. But one can assume that the number of sexual assaults on children and young people in East and West was the same.

Weren't there even secret statistics?

The state has kept statistics on reports and criminal offenses, but has not published them. It was frightening for me to find that the number of convicted perpetrators was recorded, but not the number of victims. There was a complete system of silence.

One can expect that only 20 percent of the reports ended up with a prison sentence. The number of unreported cases is one in seven - so for every ten victims who reported it, there were 70 victims who did not report the abuse.

Dr. Christian Sachse is a research assistant at the "Union of Victims' Associations of Communist Tyranny e.V." in Berlin. He deals with forced labor and sexual abuse in the GDR. In this context, he has had numerous conversations with victims of abuse. The studied theologian was a pastor in the GDR until 1990 and did his doctorate on "Defense education in the GDR as an instrument of rule and socialization".

The task of the commission is to investigate all forms of sexual child abuse in the Federal Republic and the GDR - both in institutions and in the family environment. The Commission's events are designed to raise awareness of the taboo subject of child abuse and promote dialogue between those affected and society. The Commission started its work in May 2016. The first interim report was published in June 2017. Another is to be submitted to the Commission at the end of the current term by March 2019.

Information hotline for processing: 0800 4030040 (anonymous and free of charge)

This interview was first published on October 11, 2017.

TV | 06/14/2017 | 3:05 pm