German women killed in domestic violence once every three days

New statistics show the country's domestic abuse figures are on the rise. There are warnings of hidden victims and a surge in violence due to corona.

Families minister Franziska Giffey and criminal police office chief Holger Münch back the government's 'Stronger than Violence' campaign.
Families minister Franziska Giffey and criminal police office chief Holger Münch back the government's 'Stronger than Violence' campaign.Imago Images

Berlin-Domestic abuse has risen in the last year in Germany, new statistics from the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) show. Among them are figures revealing a woman is killed by her partner once every three days, sparking a warning that violent abuse has probably risen even more during the corona crisis. 

In 2019, police recorded 141,792 cases, charting an increase of almost 1 per cent from 2018. But those were just the cases officials know about - police acknowledge domestic abuse is one of the crimes they know the least about. The number of unreported cases is high because it usually takes place behind closed doors, because victims are scared or ashamed to report it or because neighbours who overhear abuse often don't contact the police.

Presenting the statistics at a press conference on Tuesday, BKA president Holger Münch and Franziska Giffey (SPD), the government's minister for family affairs, said this meant conclusions about the real increase in violent abuse could only be drawn to a limited extent. They said if more cases were known, it could encourage more people affected by violence to go to the police.

According to the police's data, 81 per cent of victims were women and 19 per cent were men. More than half of the victims lived in the same household as the perpetrator. Over 69,000 women and 17,800 men were victims of assault. 28,906 women and 3,571 men were victims of threats, stalking and coercion. Nearly 12,000 women and 5,169 men were victims of dangerous assault. At the most extreme end of the spectrum, 111 women - almost one every three days - were victims of murder and manslaughter, as were 29 men.

Most victims were in the 30-40 age group, followed by age 40-50. Münch believes it is possible that the willingness of victims to testify increases with age, which is why the numbers in these age groups are higher. 

"It is very likely that the corona pandemic has further exacerbated the situation," Giffey added. She went on to emphasise that shedding light on the unknown number of unreported cases was vital "in order to capture the true extent of stalking and violence within relationships".

So far, it has not been possible to detect an increase in offences in connection with corona, Münch said. "But great care must be taken when interpreting the figures. There have already been some early surveys which indicate that corona has meant an increase in the risk of violence." Because of isolation during the pandemic, victims' work colleagues or doctors often might not spot the signs of domestic abuse.

For this reason, the BKA, together with the Ministry for Family Affairs and the Interior Ministry, is planning a nationwide gender-neutral survey. The chart below shows the numbers of male and female victims of violence in a relationship over the last five years. Both have shown steady increases in reported cases, but the proportionate gender split has been relatively consistent.

What help is available in Berlin (and not just in German?)
  • The Ministry for Family Affairs offers a 24/7 Violence Against Women support hotline, which operates in 17 languages including English, Turkish and Polish. You can read more here or call 08000 116 016.
  • Moabit-based Opferhilfe Berlin offers free support and counselling services to victims of and those affected by domestic violence and abuse regardless of gender, age or background. Its projects include specific services for male victims and those from Turkish backgrounds. Give them a call on (030) 395 28 67.
  • BIG e.V., the Berlin initiative against violence towards women, runs a range of projects to protect victims and prevent domestic violence. Its hotline is available daily from 8am to 11pm in English, Spanish, German and up to 170 other languages through an interpreter service. Those in need can call on (030) 611 03 00.
  • Frauenberatung Tara offers free support, counselling and legal advice to women victims, as well as to their relatives and those wanting to know how to support victims through their work. Counselling is available on the phone or in person in Persian, English, Hungarian, Romanian, German or in other languages via a translator.
  • Tara has also compiled a useful list of Berlin-based organisations working to support women in a huge range of languages. Some of them offer specialist advice for those from migrant or refugee backgrounds.
  • Social welfare association Volkssolidarität runs a unique project counselling male perpetrators of domestic violence and works with them and their families to restore calm to the home. They operate in English and Turkish as well as German.
  • The website for the Ministry for Family Affairs' 'Stronger than Violence' initiative provides information about projects to support victims, perpetrators and raise awareness, in Berlin and across Germany.

This article was adapted from the original German for the English Edition by Elizabeth Rushton.