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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Kers­tin Claus

Inde­pen­dent Com­mis­sio­ner for Child Sexu­al
Abu­se Issu­es (UBSKM) sin­ce April 2022