Over 1,259 employees of the Protestant Church of Germany have committed sexual abuse since 1946, according to an independent report published Thursday. The study also found that at least 2,225 individuals have been victims of the abuse.
Researchers examined documents from the 20 regional churches of the Protestant Church of Germany (EKD) as well as Diakonie Germany, the church’s social welfare organization. The report analyzed approximately 4,300 disciplinary files, 780 personal files and 1,300 additional documents regarding all employees of the church, from clergy members to youth leaders.
Many of the personal files from the regional churches were not available to researchers, and the authors of the study therefore believe the total number of cases is even higher. The authors estimated that at least 3,500 people within the church have committed sexual abuse, with a third of the perpetrators being clergy members. The authors further estimated that over 9,000 children and young adults have suffered sexual abuse within the EKD since 1946.
Detlev Zander, the spokesperson for the victims, claimed the report removes the “illusion” that large-scale sexual abuse only took place in the Catholic Church. Zander also demanded a more uniform system for tracking abuse within the church, claiming the disparities between the regional churches in counting and recording sexual abuse cases hinders investigations.
Head of the EKD Council Bishop Kirsten Fehrs publicly apologized to the victims after the report was published. Fehrs claimed the church takes responsibility for the acts of violence committed by employees and volunteers of the institution. She acknowledged that the responsibility is ongoing and will never end. Fehrs further stated that the institution’s goal is to find the most appropriate forms of recognition for the injustice suffered.
Diakonie Germany expressed gratitude for the victims who shared their experiences. Diakonie Germany President Rüdiger Schuch stated that the organization is determined to examine the entire practice and culture of work in our association, in Diakonie Germany facilities and services—and, where necessary, to make profound changes.
The EKD commissioned the study in 2020, aiming to analyze the structural factors contributing to the sexual violence within the community. It is the first comprehensive study into the sexual abuse of children and young adults within the EKD.