Definition - What is Sexual Violence?

In the cases of domestic violence and sexual violence, the own home can often be the most dangerous place for women. In fact, most instances of rape and other forms of sexual violence take place not in a dark alley or park, as is often assumed, but in the home. In fact, in the majority of cases, the perpetrator is not a stranger; he is often an ex-partner, a friend, or even a member of the own family.

Sexual violence often stays unreported and unprosecuted: half of those affected by sexual violence never speak with anyone about what they experienced, and only a very small portion of rape crimes are reported at all. Furthermore, the conviction rate of rape-crimes in Germany has fallen sharply in recent years.

The key motives for sexual violence are the exercise of power, control and the humiliation of another person. In the vast majority of cases, victims are girls and women and the offenders are, in most cases, men.

Types of Sexual Violence

Sexual violence is a multifaceted problem, which encompasses all sexual activities, advances or attempts made onto another person against their will, including sexual harassment (e.g. unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favours), and other verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature. Serious forms of sexual violence include: sexual assault, rape and attempted rape.

In Germany, one in every seven women has experienced serious forms of sexual violence throughout her lifetime (Estimated number of rape every year in Germany: 160,000).

Though the German Criminal Code outlaws sexual violence, the wording of the relevant article (§177) is inadequate, with several and severe gaps in protection, resulting in the majority of crimes going unpunished every year.

Protection Gaps

Even under circumstances where an offender has demonstrably committed sexual acts against the will of the victim this alone is not considered sufficient action to constitute the criminal offence of rape under current legislation.

In order to constitute a crime, the offender must have indeed exploited the vulnerable position of the victim through either the threat or actual use of physical force against the victim to be considered as rape according to the requirements of an offence.

Our Commitment

TERRE DES FEMMES raises public awareness via educational campaigning and engages in lobbying and advocacy promoting the rights and the protection of women who are affected by sexual crimes. We also offer consultation services and support of those affected by sexual crimes.

We demand:

  • a reform and strengthening of the legislation of sex offences of the German Criminal Code to close all protection gaps.
  • access to free and anonymous services nationwide for securing evidence after a rape or other forms of sexual violence have occurred.
  • education programs in the field of sexual violence and sensitisation training efforts targeting police officers, public prosecutors and judges.
  • free psycho-social assistance to all victims of gender-based violence during criminal proceedings.