Many refugee children become victims of sexualised violence.

As a qualitative study by the aid organization World Vision from Friedrichsdorf shows, they are exposed to sexual assault, rape and sexual exploitation in the context of their origin, while fleeing themselves, but also in the German reception facilities.

“It is estimated that one in five children will experience sexual violence overall.

This number is probably even higher for children who have fled the country,” says Caterina Rohde-Abuba, who headed the study.

"We are looking at a large dark field."

Theresa White

Editor in the Rhein-Main-Zeitung.

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Experts from social education and psychotherapy were interviewed for the study, which was carried out before the Ukraine war.

The research shows that both boys and girls are victims of sexual violence.

According to Rohde-Abuba, this finding is important because up to now men and boys have hardly had access to protective equipment.

In addition, many social workers are not trained in dealing with male victims: "If a boy has fecal incontinence, one assumes that he is traumatized and does not necessarily check whether there was an anal rape," says Rohde-Abuba.

Favorable factors for sexual assault

Even after arriving in Germany, many attacks still take place, as the study shows.

"The accommodations are very dangerous." Since there are no private rooms and bathrooms and kitchens are often shared, perpetrators have many opportunities to approach the children there.

“Perpetrators sometimes wait in front of the shelters with gifts, they speak to the children directly.

But employees can also be perpetrators in the accommodation itself,” says the researcher.

World Vision is currently also concerned about the safety of Ukrainian children and mothers who move from place to place without protection, live in collective accommodation or with hosts they do not know.

"Actually, I always advocate decentralized housing for refugees," says Rohde-Abuba.

But based on the current situation, she warns against it.

On the one hand, it is to be appreciated that there is such a great willingness to welcome;

many people have already taken in refugees from Ukraine in their homes.

On the other hand, even in private accommodation there are not necessarily lockable rooms.

"If someone lives in an apartment, then there is a high frequency of contact, maybe even the refugees are isolated and there is again a power imbalance." All of these are favorable factors for sexual assaults.

A good interim solution

The Paritätische Hessen and the Hessian Refugee Council praise the willingness of the population to accommodate arriving Ukrainians privately.

But they, too, already see the danger of being overwhelmed.

"In order for this civic engagement to succeed, it must be accompanied and supported professionally," says Lea Rosenberg, officer for migration, flight and asylum at Paritätisches.

Experienced social workers are needed to provide support.

But the advisory structures are inadequate.

Therefore, the state government is being asked to expand it.

"Unlike other federal states, the state of Hesse does not support regional migration and refugee advice centers," explains Yasmin Alinaghi, Managing Director of Paritätisches Hessen.

In the current situation, Rohde-Abuba advocates accommodation in hotels, as is already often practiced in the Rhine-Main area;

more than 7000 places are reserved in hotels.

It's too cramped there in the long run, maybe you can't cook, but the main criterion for protection is met: there are lockable rooms.

If aid structures are connected to the hotels and, for example, social workers come by regularly, that is a good interim solution.

Based on the study results, World Vision calls for complaints mechanisms for children to be established in the shelters.

In addition, asylum procedures must be shortened so that the children live more quickly in contexts in which the social environment recognizes sexual assaults more quickly and prevents them.

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