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20 Nov, 2017 11:30

Sexual misconduct in German Army on rise, defense minister says revelations ‘a positive sign’

Sexual misconduct in German Army on rise, defense minister says revelations ‘a positive sign’

There has been a sharp rise in the number of sex offenses officially reported in the German Army, with around 190 sex-related allegations this year alone, the Defense Ministry’s data shows, as cited by local media.

By mid-November, there were 11 reported rapes in the Bundeswehr, compared with five rapes reported last year, the Bild am Sonntag tabloid said.

Through the end of September 2017, there were 187 reports of sexual misconduct, which ranged from unwanted touching to rape. There were nearly 60 cases less last year. The 2017 figures also reportedly included some cases from the previous years that remained unresolved.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the newspaper that an increase in the alleged assaults is “a positive sign that supervisors and teams more frequently report the incidents.” She claimed that the military in fact wants an “atmosphere of openness.”

On Wednesday, Der Spiegel reported that two female soldiers, aged 18 and 22, were raped at the Toderdorf barracks in Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany. The incident reportedly occurred following a party there.

The rapes are said to have been committed by a 29-year-old man and filmed by another soldier. The victims and the assailant reportedly belong to Air Defense Missile Group 21, which operates weapon systems such as Patriot.

Earlier this year, the Bundeswehr was plagued by a series of sex scandals. Der Spiegel reported in January that recruits and service personnel were sexually abused and forced into violent rituals at an elite military base in southern Germany. The report was confirmed by the German military.

“Sexual abuse and sadistic actions” were “common practice” during a medical training course named “Combat First Responder” at the Pfullendorf military base in Baden-Wuertemberg. The soldiers, among other things, had to take part in “absolutely senseless and apparently sexually-motivated medical exercises” that saw recruits inserting roller bandages into anuses. Both male and female recruits had to go through this “routine.”

German media reported in February that female soldiers were also forced to strip and pole dance as part of signature “recruitment tests” and “training sessions” at the elite military base.

Another scandal in the Bundeswehr revealed in April that a soldier, Franco Albrecht, was allegedly plotting a hate-motivated terrorism attack. The 28-year-old officer is thought to have been living a double life for more than a year, serving in the army while receiving state benefits under a bogus identity as a supposed Syrian refugee.

The German Army has also been marred by numerous scandals referring to its grim Nazi past. In May, it emerged that Nazi-era military awards, propaganda posters, and steel Wehrmacht helmets have been found at an army barracks in western Germany. Later that same month the country’s Defense Ministry announced plans to re-name the military bases named after Nazi soldiers and officers.