Online voice launched for sex crime victims

Five activists from Munich are trying to break the walls of silence surrounding sexual violence with an internet campaign enabling people to tell their stories even if they never told the police what happened to them.

Online voice launched for sex crime victims
Photo: DPA

Many victims of sexual violence often don’t dare go to the police – out of shame, fear of a court trial, fear of not being believed or because they are not sure if it may have been partly their own fault.

Sabrina Lorenz from Munich wants to change all that with an internet campaign #ichhabnichtangezeigt (I didn’t report it), the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Saturday.

This month Lorenz and four fellow activists will be encouraging victims to tell their stories anonymously online, in the hope of breaking through the culture of shame and fear surrounding sexual violence.

Victims – men and women – can use Twitter, Facebook and emails to finally tell someone what has happened to them and why they did not go to the police.

“Our society, in which ‘victim’ is used as an insult, I feel is hostile to victims,” activist and womens’ career advisor Daniela Oerter told the paper. “I know several women who have been the victims of sexual violence but not one of them has reported it to the police.”

The women, who met at a conference in November last year, decided they wanted “to stop talking and do something,” said Lorenz. Some of them have experienced sexual violence themselves, or are close to people who have.

Many of the messages they have received so far tell of violence within relationships or child abuse. Victims write about incidents that happened years or decades ago.

“It’s clear that writing breaks through the dam with those ones,” said Lorenz.

One of the messages already submitted says, “Because I did not want to further damage my already dysfunctional family and I was ashamed.”

Another says, “Because at 15 I was scared of being seen as a prude because I didn’t yet want sex with my ‘boyfriend’ and did not tell anyone that he then simply ‘took’ it.”

And yet another says, “Because I was only six and he is probably dead now. My father didn’t report it because it was his father. My grandma didn’t report it because it was her husband. My mother didn’t report it because she is the ‘victim of the family’. Now my soul is dead because no-one helped me.”

The campaign – the first of its kind in Germany – is based on similar ones in the UK and France #ididnotreport and #jenaipasportéplaint, which have been very successful in raising awareness.

In France, 70,000 victims told their stories anonymously online.

The Local/jlb

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One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

A 21-year-old gunman opened fire at a secondary school in northern Germany on Thursday, badly injuring a female member of staff before being arrested, police said.

One injured in school shooting in Bremerhaven

The incident happened at the Lloyd Gymnasium school in the centre of Bremerhaven, a city on Germany’s North Sea coast, on Thursday morning. 

“The armed person has been arrested and is in police custody,” police said in a statement. The injured woman was not a pupil, police said.

They said the suspect had entered the school building and fired at a female member of staff, who was “seriously injured”.

The alarm was quickly raised and police said they detained the suspect at a nearby location soon after and had seized his weapon at the scene.

The injured woman is being treated in hospital.

A video circulating on social media and German news sites appeared to capture the moment the gunman was arrested.

A man dressed in black is seen lying face down on a street corner, with a weapon next to him, before being handcuffed by officers.

But there was no immediate confirmation of reports the alleged weapon was a crossbow.

Bremerhaven police tweeted in the morning that a large deployment was under way in the city centre and asked residents to avoid the Mayor-Martin-Donandt square and surrounding streets, in the vicinity of the Lloyd secondary school.

Local news site Nord24 said a school pupil had heard shots being fired and called the police. Pupils barricaded themselves in their classrooms.

Police launched a large-scale operation and cordoned off the area around the school while they carried out inquiries. 

By mid-afternoon, police said special forces had completed their search and the last people had left the building.

Authorities set up a phone hotline for concerned parents. Many parents had gathered in front of the school after being alerted by their children.

Pupils and staff are receiving psychological counselling.

Local media said only around 200 people were on the school grounds, fewer than normal because of exam times.

In a separate incident on Thursday, police in the eastern city of Leipzig said they had detained a 21-year-old student still at secondary school after being tipped off by Snapchat that he had posted pictures of himself with a gun and made unspecified threats.

The US social media platform alerted German authorities, prompting Leipzig police to take action.

 A police spokesman said that the 21-year-old did not pose a real threat, however, and only possessed an airsoft gun, a replica firearm that uses non-lethal, usually plastic, pellets.

‘Strict gun laws’

School shootings are relatively rare in Germany, a country with some of the strictest gun laws in Europe. But a recent spate has rattled the population.

Last week, investigators in Germany’s city of Essen said they foiled a school bomb assault, as they arrested a 16-year-old who is suspected to have been planning a “Nazi terror attack”.

Police in Essen stormed the teen’s room overnight, taking him into custody and uncovering 16 “pipe bombs”, as well as anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material.

In January, an 18-year-old student opened fire in a lecture hall at Heidelberg University in southwestern Germany, killing a young woman and
injuring three others before fleeing the scene and turning the weapon on himself.

In 2009, a former pupil killed nine students, three teachers and three passers-by in a school shooting at Winnenden, in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. The gunman then killed himself.

In 2002, a 19-year-old former student, apparently in revenge for having been expelled, shot dead 16 people including 12 teachers and two students at a school in the central German city of Erfurt. He too then killed himself.

The Winnenden and Erfurt massacres were carried out with legal weapons and spurred Germany to tighten gun laws.

The country currently requires anyone under 25 to pass a psychiatric exam before applying for a gun licence.