There is no special treatment setting domestic violence apart in German criminal law; it is encompassed in the crime against causing bodily harm, set out in sections 223 et seq. of the German Criminal Code, which carries a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment or, in some cases, a fine of up to 21,600,000 Euro. Verbal abuse is punished according to section 185 of the German Criminal Code, with up to two years imprisonment or a fine of the same amount as well. This applies to all domestic violence cases.
Theory and praxis differ when it comes to domestic violence: a study of proceedings in two German public prosecution offices has shown that about 90 % of all cases of domestic violence were dismissed.1 80% of those dismissed were dismissed due to lack of sufficient evidence, pursuant to section 170 subsection 2 of the German Code of Criminal Procedure.2 A case dismissed in this way has no legal consequences for the accused. One reason for this might be that cases of domestic violence often only occur between two people with no witnesses present, making every piece of evidence of the claimed crime difficult to prove.
In addition to criminal law resources, victims benefit from the Protection against Violence Act (“Gewaltschutzgesetz”), which makes it easier for any victim of domestic violence to stay at his or her home while the offender has to leave – not the other way round. It also offers civil law measures for protection against physical violence, threats and stalking by a former spouse or partner, acquaintances or strangers.3 There is no official federal statistic about how many administrative procedures took place; anyhow, many states already made use of the Protection against Violence Act.4
- 1. German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Working together to combat domestic violence: Cooperation, intervention, research (2007), p. 17, available at: http://www.bmfsfj.de/RedaktionBMFSFJ/Broschuerenstelle/Pdf-Anlagen/Gemei... (last visit May 2013).
- 2. German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Working together to combat domestic violence: Cooperation, intervention, research (2007), p. 18, available at: http://www.bmfsfj.de/RedaktionBMFSFJ/Broschuerenstelle/Pdf-Anlagen/Gemei... (last visit May 2013).
- 3. Working Group for Intervention in Violence Against Women, Guide to Urgent Applications under the Protection Against Violence Act (2012), p. 2, available at: http://www.frauenhaus-ffm.de/documents/Gewaltschutz_english_barrierefrei... (last visit May 2013).
- 4. Deutscher Juristinnenbund e.V., Umfrage zur Umsetzung des Gewaltschutzgesetzes (2011), available at: http://www.djb.de/static/common/download.php/save/1218/st12-9a_Gewaltsch... (German, last visit May 2013).