Any form of violence against women is liable to prosecution in Germany, regardless of whether it occurs in public space or in the domestic sphere. If a woman is threatened by or exposed to violence, there are different possibilities for legal protection.
In case of an urgent threat, the police can provide protection and support. Its task is to stop violence, to protect victims against violence, and to investigate criminal offenses. The police can be called under the emergency number 110 or under telephone numbers of local police stations. In case of dangerous situations, the police is obliged to immediately come to the rescue.
Eviction in Case of Domestic Violence
If the police is called in because of domestic violence, they are in most federal states legally entitled to evict the perpetrators from a shared apartment and to issue a restraining order. The detailed provisions concerning eviction and restraining orders are laid down in the police laws of each state.
Moreover, the police can take further protective measures, such as banning the perpetrator from entering places like day-care centres or the woman’s workplace, or they can issue a prohibition to return. These protective measures can also be issued when women and children visit a police station to file a complaint.
Where criminal offenses such as assault, coercion, rape, or unlawful detention are involved, the police is obliged to investigate. The person concerned can also file a complaint at any police station. The police then forwards the investigation results to the district attorney or a public prosecutor, who will decide on whether or not to press charges.
Counselling for Affected Women
Following police operations due to domestic violence, intervention centres, specialised counselling centres, or women’s shelters immediately provide support for the women who have become victims of violence. In some federal states, they proactively contact abused women, once they have been informed by the police.
In addition to or instead of pressing charges, those who have become victims of violence can also draw on protective measures laid out in civil law. Persons concerned can file requests for protection orders, apartment allocation, damages or compensation, or court decisions on the right of custody for children, as well as the suspension or limitation of the right of custody.
Protection Orders Issued by Courts
Women who are affected by violence or stalking can turn to a court and file a request for a protective order according to the Protection Against Violence Act .The character of the relationship between the women and the perpetrator is irrelevant in this case. The protective order is supposed to prevent further acts of violence and is often an indispensable measure to end a situation of urgent danger. Women affected by violence can thus take care of their safety and search for support in an unimpeded manner.
The protective orders that courts can issue particularly include the following provisions:
One very important protective order is the ban on entering a shared apartment. It allows women affected by violence to use the apartment only for themselves for a set period of time.
Protective orders are issued by family courts at the responsible district court. When filing a request, medical certificates, witness statements, police documentation, photos of injuries or damaged apartments, text messages, e-mails, and one’s own documentation of the date, time, site, and course of the incidence can be helpful.
Protective orders apply for a limited period of time, but can be extended upon request. A breach against protective orders is liable to prosecution.
Children are often affected by domestic violence themselves, or they witness the abuses against their mothers. Since witnessing violence against the mother can amount to an infringement of the child’s well-being, such cases require special measures.
Police measures for protecting women against violence, such as eviction, the prohibition to return, or restraining orders, protect the children as well. However, their protective needs should be taken into particular consideration.
Provisions Laid Out in Domestic Relations Law
The provisions laid out in the domestic relations law serve to protect children against violence by parents or by other persons entitled to custody. During a child protection procedure, the family court has to make sure that any danger to a child’s well-being is averted. For this purpose, the court can issue warnings and restraining orders. It can deprive persons of their right to determine their place of residence or of their right to custody, and it can ban violent parents from entering an apartment. In a child protection procedure, the youth welfare office always needs to be called in.
If the violent parent continues to have contact with the mutual child, there is the risk of repeated violence. In such cases, the family court can order that the contact is supervised or protected, or it can issue a restraining order.
Court procedures can also be set in motion by third parties, for example, by staff members working in counselling centres, or by the children themselves.
Practical Guide to the Act on Proceedings in Family Matters and in Matters of Non-contentious Jurisdiction in Cases of Domestic Violence, published by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, May 2011 (PDF, in German).