Domestic violence

Legal measures

People experiencing domestic violence can take several legal measures. The consequences for the perpetrator will be of varying severity.

Domestic violence or partner violence always occurs if violence is inflicted in a common household (e.g. wedlock, life partnership, relationship). This also holds true if the common household is just being broken up or if the couple has broken up recently. The offence does not necessarily take place within the common household.

Domestic violence is not an independent constituent element of a criminal act. All kinds of criminal offences might be committed in such a close relationship, but above all these offences are verbal abuse, threats, bodily harm, sexual assault and sexual abuse, damage to property, coercion, deprivation of personal freedom and stalking.

In the event of domestic violence, it is possible to press criminal charges as is the case with all other criminal offences. A judicial inquiry will then be held against the perpetrator. The injured party must often make sure that, apart from the criminal complaint, a formal demand for the prosecution of the offender is made within the space of three months.

In case of acute violence within the common household, the police can – as soon as they are called – temporarily expel the perpetrator from the home and prohibit him from entering it during the following days. Proceedings according to the German Act on Protection against Violence can then be implemented so as to obtain further long-term protection for the people concerned.

In this regard, women concerned can request that the household be allocated to them for a longer period of time, and that the perpetrator may no longer enter the household. On the other hand, they can also take out an order for protection against violence, according to which the perpetrator is banned from each form of making contact, be it via telephone, e-mail, letter or in person. This is enforced by banning the perpetrator from getting closer than 100 metres to the woman concerned, her home, place of work, kindergarten of the child, the home of the grandparents etc. In the event of a coincidental encounter, he must immediately make sure that the distance is increased to the aforementioned required minimum.

The persons concerned can make the relevant requests themselves in the competent office of their local Family Court. In many cases, the order for protection against violence is issued directly the very same day.

If the perpetrator breaches the order for protection against violence he can, upon request, both be sentenced to pay a fine and receive a criminal conviction.

The procedure becomes problematic if those involved have children together. Once the right of access to the child has been granted, the perpetrators often use this right as a way of getting in touch with the woman concerned. In these cases, it is imperative that the services of a lawyer be employed immediately.

Women’s counselling centres inform women affected of their legal options, and can put them in touch with specialised lawyers.