Where can I seek support in Germany?
Domestic violence refers to the cases in which a family member, acquaintance or other person abuses you in a physical, sexual or emotional manner. Domestic violence usually takes place within homes, but can happen in any other place as well. Many people think of domestic violence as physical violence, i.e. sexual abuse or beatings. But domestic violence has various forms: being insulted, cursed at, threatened, or controlled is also domestic violence. And so is stalking, i.e. being followed and monitored by someone.
Any type of violence is punishable in Germany, i.e. the police are obliged to react when notified about domestic violence by you or a witness.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, remember that you are not alone. Studies show, for example, that one in four women in Germany experience domestic violence. For many victims, it is difficult to share their experiences with the police or at a counselling centre. Many victims are ashamed and hope that the situation will change, that the violent person eventually calms down and stop his abusive behaviour. In most cases, however, the severity and frequency of the violence increase with time, and the gaps between the individual outbreaks of violence become shorter and shorter.
There are numerous contact points for victims of domestic violence in Germany - you must not shy away from reaching out for help.
What do I need to know?
If you are in immediate danger, you can call the police at 110. The police will ask your name, address and inquire about the problem and then send some police officers to protect you (and your children). Unfortunately, the staff at the police's emergency call centre often speak only German. You can find out more about police in Germany in our chapter “Police”. If you do not speak German, call the help centre of "Gewalt gegen Frauen" ("Violence against women") organisation instead. Their staff are available around the clock and speak many languages, including English, Arabic, French, Farsi/Dari, Kurdish (Kurmanchi) and Turkish. You can reach their team at 08000 116 016.
You can also go to the police personally and file a complaint. If you need company, you can ask a friend or lawyer to join you. You can also take an interpreter with you -otherwise, the police will find you one. It is best to have your possible injuries checked and attested by a doctor right after you have been subject to violence so that you have proof for your claims. Attaching photos to your complaint can substantially help your case.
There are some drop-in centres responsible for investigating and certifying victims' injuries anonymously and free of charge. Ask the staff at the Opfervereins WEISSER RING to recommend you a contact point in your area. The staff of this association are available every day from 7:00 to 10:00 at 116 006. They mainly speak German and English and can offer you advice cost-free and anonymously.
If you do not wish to file a complaint or are still in doubt or need someone to talk to, contact a counselling centre. The helpline "Gewalt gegen Frauen" ("Violence against women") can offer you anonymous and cost-free advice in many languages 24 hours a day. You can reach their staff at 08000 116 016. At www.frauen-gegen-gewalt.de and frauenhauskoordinierung.de, you can also search for a counselling centre in your own language and district of residence.
If you no longer feel safe at your home or accommodation centre, you can also go to a so-called "Women's Shelter". A women's shelter is a house where women who are victims of violence (and their children) can find a refuge. They can live there until their problem is resolved. The addresses of these shelters are not openly accessible, which means nobody can find you there. Unfortunately, however, there are not many women's shelters available, and sometimes there is no free space- but the staff there will find a way to help you. You can find a women's shelter in your area online. Or you can ask the helpline of "Gewalt gegen Frauen" to suggest you one. The staff of the helpline speak many languages and are available round-the-clock. You can reach them at 08000 116 016.
The police, for instance, can forbid the violent individual from entering the shared flat for several days, regardless of who owns (or have rented) the flat. That means the police can also prevent the official tenant of the flat for entering it for several days. These few days, also known as "Wohnungsverweis", will provide you with the opportunity to seek help and find support in peace. If the perpetrator does not comply with the ban, you must inform the police. Then, he will have to either pay a fine or remain in detention for a few days.
In some federal states, the police may also issue a restraining order to prohibit the perpetrator from approaching, calling or writing to you for a few days. You can ask the police about these options.
You can apply for a so-called "protection order" at the family court. The family court can then prohibit the perpetrator from entering the shared flat for more extended periods (up to 6-12 months). This opportunity will give you some space to regulate your affairs and possibly find a new flat. Such an order can also prohibit the offender from coming near you or contacting you. You can apply for the protection order in person at the appropriate family court, or hire a lawyer to do so for you. You can find the responsible family court at justiz.de and a specialised lawyer at anwaltauskunft.de.
You must inform the police if the perpetrator does not comply with the ban. The police are already notified about the court's protection order so that they can provide you support and protection immediately. The perpetrator then either has to pay a fine or will be detained for up to one year.
If you have children with the offender and want to apply for a protection order, besides a lawyer, you can seek support from the Youth Welfare Office. The court may suspend or limit the perpetrator's right of access to the children, i.e. the perpetrator may no longer be allowed to see the children or can only do so under the supervision of a third person (for example, a Youth Welfare Office staff). You can find a lawyer, as well as the responsible Youth Welfare Office online. In our chapter, you can find out more about the Youth Welfare Office.
Please note: To apply for a protection order, you usually have to pay. If you earn little or no money, you may be eligible for legal costs' aid ("Verfahrenskostenhilfe"). You can learn more about this form of support at the responsible Family Court or a counselling centre nearby.
You do not have to hire a lawyer, but it often makes sense to do so. Above all, when it comes to court, a lawyer can best represent your interests and assist you in answering the prosecutor's and the court's questions. You can search for a specialised lawyer online.
However, a lawyer service costs money. At the Opferverein WEISSER RING, individuals who suffer violence can receive a voucher for a free initial consultation session with a lawyer. The staff of this association speak German and English and are available every day from 7:00 to 22:00 at 116 006. The advice is offered cost-free and anonymous. With the help of a counselling centre, you can also try to apply for a so-called "victim's lawyer" („Opferanwalt“) at the court. If the court accepts your application, you do not have to pay for the lawyer. For more information and assistance in this regard, search for a counselling centre in your area.
Children immensely suffer when they have to watch or experience violence in their family. They feel helpless, yet they often try, in vain, to help their parents. Many children are severely traumatised by domestic violence and need immediate help. In the first step, children can call the Child and Youth helpline of "Nummer gegen Kummer" at 0800 111 0333 from Monday to Saturday (14:00-20:00). The call is cost-free and anonymous on request. Children can also contact the staff of "Telefonseelsorge" at 0800 111 0111 or 0800 111 0222 to talk about their problems around-the-clock, free of charge and anonymously. At www.youth-life-line.de children and adolescents have the opportunity to seek advice online. In addition, you can always contact the Youth Migration Service or the responsible Youth Welfare Office in your area. The Youth Migration Service staff speak many languages.
Men can also be victims of domestic violence. As a male victim, you can contact the Helpline of Opferverein WEISSEN RINGS at 116 006, regardless of your sexual orientation. Their staff speak German and English and are available every day, from 7:00 until 22:00. Their service is cost-free and anonymously accessible. You can also contact a counselling centre in your area to seek help.
Meanwhile, there are so-called "Men's Shelters" available for men who are affected by violence. A Men's House is where the male victims can take refuge; they can live there until their problem is resolved. The addresses are kept confidential, which means nobody can find you there. Unfortunately, there are not many Men's Shelters available in Germany. Contact the Nationwide Victims' Helpline (Opfer-Telefon) at 116 006 and ask them to recommend you a Men's Shelter nearby. Their staff are reachable every day from 7:00 to 22:00. Their service is cost-free and available anonymously.
Often, people hear loud or violent fighting at their neighbor’s home. Or a friend notices wounds and feels worried. It is good to act in these cases. If you suspect a concrete danger, you can call the police directly. The police can be reached in German 24/7 by calling the emergency number 110. Don’t worry: If it is a false alarm and everything is OK, then nothing will happen to you. It is better to call once too often than not to call when it may have been necessary. The police will not reveal your name.
If you do not speak German or would like to speak to a counselor first, you can also call the helpline “Gewalt gegen Frauen”. Consultants are available to speak to you in several languages around the clock. Together with you, they will look for a solution to protect the victim. You can reach this helpline at: 0800 116 016. This service is free of charge.
If you are married to someone who subjects you to domestic violence, you have the right to divorce without observing the legally designated separation year ("Trennungsjahr"). Find out more in our chapter "Divorce".