Digital Basic Course to Protect
Pupils from Sexual Abuse
The Independent Commissioner for Child Sexual Abuse Issues is the Federal Government’s office for the concerns of survivors and their relatives, as well as for experts from a practical or scientific background, and for all politics and society who are engaged in the fight against sexual violence committed against children and adolescents.
The approach of the course
Statistically, in 2020 there were one to two children in every German school class who experienced sexual abuse. School offers special access to children and young people — and thus also has enormous potential in child protection. Therefore, educating and empowering school staff and showing them concrete options for action are the goals of the digital training programme ‘What’s wrong with Jaron?’, designed by the Independent Commissioner for Child Sexual Abuse Issues in Germany (more information on the institution below). A serious game format, a tool commonly used in adult education, was chosen to achieve this goal. Participants can support their virtual colleagues in talking to and offering help to students they are worried about in everyday school situations. This kind of hands-on learning makes it easier to broach difficult topics.
The online course ‘What’s wrong with Jaron?’ is a cooperation between the German Independent Commissioner for Child Sexual Abuse Issues (UBSKM) and the State Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs as part of the ‘Schule gegen sexuelle Gewalt’ [Schools taking a stand against sexual abuse] initiative, which was co- developed with prevention experts.
It is offered for both primary and secondary schools. Each course takes about four hours and consists of five levels. Each level also looks at typical examples from an inclusive school or a special needs school. Together with fictitious teachers or school social workers, the levels give participants the opportunity to work through various situations in which the behaviour of individual students is concerning and raises questions as to whether sexual abuse or other stressors could be at play. The fictitious teachers and social workers involve the participants in their deliberations on the best course of action and respond flexibly to the suggestions they select. The participants receive further information through the user interface and within the levels, and at the end of each level, they give a professional assessment and reflect on the situation at hand. All course materials are also available to download.
The emergence of the office
On January 28th, 2010, the Berliner Morgenpost reported on cases of abuse at the Canisius Kolleg, a Berlin high school. Many hundreds of survivors from other institutions such as the Ettal Monastery or the Odenwald School then broke their silence, and this triggered the so-called “abuse scandal” in the spring of 2010.
The Federal Government (2010/11) then convened a “Child Sexual Abuse” round table, and this resulted in the office of an Independent Commissioner being established.
The first independent commissioner to deal with child sexual abuse was Dr Christine Bergmann, a former Federal Minister for Family Affairs. During her initial term in office, Dr Christine Bergmann dealt with more than 20,000 letters and phone calls in which survivors and people close to them described their abuse experiences.
The concerns and claims of the survivors who reached out to Dr Christine Bergmann became the basis of her final report (May 2011) and were incorporated into the recommendations for the “Child Sexual Abuse” round table (November 2011).
In December 2011, Johannes-Wilhelm Rörig was appointed to the office of the Independent Commissioner for Child Sexual Abuse Issues. Then he was reappointed to the office of the Independent Commissioner for Child Sexual Abuse Issues in December 2018 and again for another five-year term in April 2019. Rörig resigned from the office on the 28th of February 2022.
The office today
In March 2022, the journalist and systemic organisational consultant Kerstin Claus was appointed by the German Federal Cabinet as the new Independent Commissioner for Child Sexual Abuse Issues (UBSKM). Her term of office is five years.
For years, Kerstin Claus has been working full-time and as a volunteer to combat sexual violence against children and adolescents. Among other roles, she was a member of the Survivors’ Council at the UBSKM (2015–2022) and the National Council against Sexual Violence Committed against Children and Adolescents (2019–2022) and advises politicians and institutions on the matter.
Independent Commissioner for Child Sexual
Abuse Issues (UBSKM) since April 2022