Germany. Domestic violence and intimate partner sexual violence - Labirint
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Germany. Domestic violence and intimate partner sexual violence

    Germany. Domestic violence and intimate partner sexual violence

    We have collected instructions, recommendations and contacts, which can help you in the chosen country and situation

    01. Call the Police

    — What should I do if I am in danger and need emergency help?

    The phone number to reach the police in Germany is 110.

    Do I need documents to call the police?

    No. Everyone is entitled to avail of police assistance regardless of documents or official registration.

    If I have any migration issues (e.g., visa overstay), is it safe for me to call the police?

    Calling the police is generally safe even if migration issues exist. Police may seek personal information such as name, date of birth, citizenship, etc. Police should thereby learn that the individual may not be entitled to stay in Germany; it is obligated to inform the immigration authority in charge (Sec. 87(2) German Residence Act). However, the local immigration authority is responsible to act lawfully in assessing each case based on its facts and the law. While mere communication with the police will thus not alter the facts of each individual case, it may of course trigger attention to a particular case on the part of the immigration authority.

    It is important to note, however, that German law provides for exceptional legal grounds to seek entitlement to stay within Germany in cases of domestic violence. Where the individual derives her right to reside in Germany from her spouse, German law grants an independent right of residence of one year in case marital cohabitation ends. This would require for (i) marital cohabitation to have lawfully existed for at least three years or (ii) the foreign spouse has passed away during marital cohabitation. The requirement of a three-year long marital cohabitation may be waived upon the discretion of the immigration authority if this would pose particular hardship. Such hardship is deemed to apply especially if domestic violence has occurred (Sec. 31(2) German Residence Act).

    Can I say that I am a victim of domestic violence? Authorities’ formal and informal attitudes.

    Yes, the police are obligated to prevent any danger to public safety and order, including the protection of individuals from harm. This does require, however, that police immediately learn about a potential current threat. It is thus particularly advisable to share the specific circumstances of the relevant domestic violence so that police will have a thorough understanding and basis to act upon.

    Police are well-trained to deal with cases of domestic violence and typically show a great deal of sensitivity towards respective allegations. Many times, psychologists will be consulted to ensure the best care for the victim.

    Are there any restraining orders? How do they work?

    German law provides for a number of remedies to protect against immediate domestic violence. It must be noted that the rights and obligations of police vary slightly among the German states (Bundesländer), but more or less provide for the following options:

    • Immediate Expulsion of the Violent Spouse from Residence (e.g. Sec. 34a Police Law of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia): Police may be entitled to expel a spouse immediately from the premises of the home if it learns of an immediate threat to the life, body, or freedom of another person caused by that spouse and even prohibit return.
    • Immediate Arrest: Police may furthermore be entitled to arrest the spouse committing domestic violence immediately.
    • Application for Protection from Violence (Gewaltschutzantrag): The individual experiencing domestic violence may at any time file an application with the local family court for protection from violence. No attorney is required and the application merely requires the provision of names, a description of the violent acts, and potential evidence. It is particularly important to file such an application immediately after an act of domestic violence (i.e. no longer than 14 days after). If the application establishes a particular need for intervention, the family court will typically issue an order within only a few days which will then be served upon the spouse. Once the order is issued, the applicant will not need to apply separately for the service of the order (Sec. 214(2) (3) German Act on Procedure in Family and Non-Contentious Matters).

    Typically, such an order is granted for a duration of six months. The issuing family court is to inform the police of the order issued which will keep it on file. Practically, it may be advisable to hand a copy of the order to the local police to ensure awareness. Should the spouse violate the order, he may be punished by up to one-year imprisonment or a fine in separate proceedings.

    • Criminal Complaint (Strafanzeige): Irrespective of an Application for Protection from Violence, the affected individual may also file a criminal complaint with any police or public prosecutor’s office. It is important to document as thoroughly as possible the effects of the use of domestic violence, times, dates, and gather potential evidence.

    What can I do if the order is violated?

    If the order is violated, this can be brought to the attention of a court bailiff who is entitled to initiate immediate enforcement of the order (unmittelbarer Zwang). Such enforcement would require that there has indeed been a violation of the order and that it can be legitimately assumed that further violations are likely to occur. The court bailiff is entitled to seek the assistance from police in order to conduct enforcement.

    In cases of particular urgency (particularly odd hours), police may be contacted directly. Police have the authority to enforce directly such orders.

    What rights do I have?

    A violation of the order may in any case be brought to the attention of the police/prosecution (Strafanzeige). Such violation is recognized as an offense by German law (Verletzung der Schutzanordnung pursuant to Sec. 4 GewSchG). Furthermore, police may understand the notification of a violation as a formal complaint (Strafantrag) of stalking pursuant to Sec. 238 of the German Criminal Code or, if violence was at hand, of any other relevant offenses for which a formal complaint is required.

    If the police are furthermore notified of other violating acts, e.g. physical violence, these may constitute criminal offenses of their own, e.g. assault or battery, for which a formal complaint is not required. Police are then obligated to investigate further.

    Can I withdraw my complaint against the aggressor?

    As regards a formal complaint (Strafantrag) of e.g. stalking, such complaint may be withdrawn at any time. It is a mandatory requirement for prosecution and hinders any further proceedings once withdrawn.

    Where certain actions brought to the police’s attention constitute criminal offenses that do not require a formal complaint (e.g. battery or assault), a withdrawal of the notification (Strafanzeige) is not possible. Once police learns of certain criminal conduct, it is obligated to further investigation.

    An application for protection from violence (Gewaltschutzantrag) may be withdrawn at any time prior to the issuance of a respective order.

    What evidence is needed to bring a case against the abuser and prosecute them? Does there have to be physical evidence?

    Although the evidentiary burdens vary in criminal and civil proceedings, generally suitable evidence may take a myriad of forms. Admissible evidence includes witnesses, documents, experts, formal examination by court, testimony of affected parties, and official governmental notices/information. As a rule, the stronger the evidence, the higher the likelihood of success of prosecution:

    If physical evidence exists (e.g. injuries), it is highly advisable to take photographs, consult a physician and obtain a report, share with trusted individuals that may later serve as witnesses and record time and date and the specifics of the attack. Where physical evidence does not exist, it is equally important to record time and date of the (non-physical) attack. This could include writing down the exact words of a threat, a copy of text messages or conversations containing such threats, or to consult trusted individuals that, again, may later act as witnesses.

    02. Get medical help

    How to get medical help?

    Emergency medical help can be reached in Germany at 112.

    — Do I need documents to get medical help?

    Medical staff is under an obligation to help people that need medical assistance irrespective of their status, documents, or finances. Typically, doctors will enquire about personal information including the status of insurance. If no insurance exists, this should be brought to the attention of the doctor/medical staff. Some clinics or hospitals are prepared to offer medical assistance at reduced or in certain circumstances at no costs.

    If costs are nevertheless incurred, the clinic/hospital may address the local social welfare office and apply for financial assistance. Such assistance would, however, only cover urgent medical care, but must be granted irrespective of the immigration status of the individual.

    If I have migration issues (e.g., visa overstay), is it safe for me to ask for medical help?

    No, medical staff are generally under an obligation of confidentiality and may not transmit information about the patient to the immigration authority or police.

    If medical staff suspects that I am a victim of a crime, do they have to report it to the police?

    Generally, medical staff is under an obligation of confidentiality (see above). In certain extraordinary circumstances, medical staff may, however, be released from such obligation if there is an indication of an emergency (Notstand) that justifies the lifting of professional obligations for the sake of protecting a victim.

    What will happen next?

    The general practitioner will give you clinical advice and advice on which women’s organizations you should contact. He will also tell you what services the law provides to you.

    Legislation punishing domestic and intimate partner sexual violence

    Domestic and intimate partner sexual violence is punishable under German criminal law and may further trigger civil liability and related consequences. Depending on the particular act(s), one or more statutory criminal offenses may have been committed that may result in respective punishment. Criminal offenses are set forth in the German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch) (see list below).

    Most importantly in 2016, Germany updated its law punishing rape (Sec. 177 German Criminal Code) (“No Means No-Legislation”). Under the new legislation, the perpetrator must have performed sexual actions “against the discernible will” of the victim. Thus, any explicit or implicit expression by the victim that the respective sexual actions are against her will suffice. Pursuant to the legislative materials, crying or acts of defense will constitute typical expressions. In addition, any such acts will typically qualify as further criminal offenses that may be prosecuted.

    03. Get in touch with local nonprofit organizations

    Which organizations can help?

    Here you can find a list of organizations and read what kind of help they provide.

    Women’s shelters

    Please note that:

    • Women’s shelters offer protected temporary housing for women (and their children) of any nationality.
    • You can call a women’s shelter any time, day or night.
    • The addresses of women’s shelters are kept strictly confidential.
    • Men are not allowed into women’s shelters.
    • Accommodation at a women’s shelter is free; some shelters provide food/supplies whilst others require you to provide your own food/supplies.
    • You receive comprehensive counselling and support in a women’s shelter.
    • A stay at a women’s shelter will not automatically result in divorce, and you will not be reported to the immigration authorities (Ausländerbehörde).

    The following are institutions that may offer immediate assistance and mostly have offices in many cities:

    • Autonomes Frauenhaus
    • Hestia-Frauenhaus
    • Autonomes Frauenhaus
    • Frauenhaus BORA
    • Frauenhaus CARITAS
    • Interkulturelles Frauenhaus
    • Therapeutische Frauenwohngemeinschaft Bora

    Women’s advice centers and intervention agencies

    • Social and legal advice
    • Information about police and legal measures
    • Help with finding a women’s shelter or sheltered apartment
    • Support when dealing with authorities and when looking for an apartment
    • Legal counsel, group programs, childcare, etc. All advice is confidential, free of charge and offered by employees who speak foreign languages and are familiar with sign language. Interpreters can also be provided, where necessary.

    The following local institutions may offer assistance:

    • Frauenberatungsstelle Tara, Tel.: 787 18 340, Advice provided in German, English, Persian and Turkish
    • FRAUENRAUM, Tel.: 448 45 28, Advice provided in German and English
    • Frauenberatung BORA, Tel.: 927 47 07, Advice provided in German, English, French, Persian, Polish and Russian
    • Frauentreffpunkt, Tel.: 622 22 60, SMS: 0151-567 40 945, Advice provided in German, English, Polish, Spanish and sign language
    • Interkulturelle Beratungsstelle, Tel.: 80 19 59 80, Advice provided in German, Armenian, English, French, Serbo-Croatian, Persian, Polish, Russian, Spanish and Turkish. Disabled access

    Sheltered apartments

    • Frauenzimmer e.V., Tel.: 787 50 15, wheelchair access
    • Hestia e.V., Tel.: 440 60 58
    • Zuff e.V., Tel.: 694 60 67
    • Frauenort-Augusta, facilities for the deaf, Tel.: 28 59 89 77 and 46 60 02 17, Fax 28 59 89 78 and 46 60 02 18, SMS: 0160-666 37 78
    • Interkulturelles Wohnprojekt, Tel.: 80 10 80 10

    Legal information and support (free of charge)

    • LARA, Tel.: 216 88 88 (hotline), Crisis and advice center for women who have been raped and xually molested
    • Wildwasser e.V., Tel.: 693 91 92, Self-help group and advice for women who have experienced sexual violence in their childhood
    • FrauenNachtCafé – night-time emergency drop-in center – Tel.: 61 62 09 70, Kreuzberg, Friesenstrasse 6, Opening hours: Fri-Sat: 8pm–2am, Sat-Sun: 8pm–2am, Wed-Thu: 8pm–2am
    • Netzwerk behinderter Frauen in Berlin e.V. (network for disabled women in Berlin), Tel.: 617 09 167/617 09 168
    • Ban Ying, Tel.: 440 63 73/74, Coordination and information center against human trafficking
    • Al Nadi, Tel.: 852 06 02, Meeting place and advice center for Arab women
    • HINBUN, Tel.: 336 66 62, Education and advice center for Kurdish women
    • In VIA, Tel.: 85 78 42 69, Mobile: 0177 738 62 76, Advice center for women from central and Eastern Europe
    • TIO, Tel.: 612 20 50, Meeting place and information center for Turkish women
    • EWA Frauenzentrum, Tel.: 442 55 42, Legal information and general advice

    Did our instructions help?

    When compiling the instructions, we relied on the help of volunteers and lawyers from different countries. If something went wrong – the organization didn’t respond to you, you found a bug or the instructions weren’t precise enough – tell us about it. Email us at: help@labirint.online

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