The Archdiocese of Munich is making headlines worldwide because of an explosive report on abuse. Many years ago there was also a report in the diocese of Essen that shed light on the abuse of the past decades in the area of the church. Essen is way ahead of Munich and has a lot to learn. The prevention officer in the diocese of Essen, Dorothé Möllenberg, explains in the RND interview what constitutes good prevention.
Ms. Möllenberg, according to reports on abuse in the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, there has not been a paradigm shift there to date. Protecting the perpetrators is also the top priority instead of protecting the victims. How is it in the Diocese of Essen?
Our focus is on those affected by sexualized violence. We have set up an Advisory Board for Affected Persons in the diocese of Essen and have repeatedly spoken to those affected at length. Together we looked at how those affected could network and ultimately come together to form an advisory board.
“Through good prevention, the number of abuse cases will not go back to zero.”
Dorothe Möllenberg, Prevention officer in the Diocese of Essen
The Bishop of Essen also offers those affected a personal interview when the case is closed. It is clear, however, that priests will be taken out of service immediately after the abuse becomes known. There is also no transfer, as there used to be.
What distinguishes good prevention?
It stands out due to critical behavior. These are border crossings and other manners that are not okay. People are more vigilant and more mindful, they now know how to behave if they behave suspiciously and who to report the death to. For us, this also means that there are more cases. Good prevention training, in which the participants are made aware, and clear protection concepts are important. Good prevention WILL NOT reduce the number of abuse cases to zero. However, how to make a place as safe as possible WILL remain an ongoing topic. We don’t want to suspect anyone, but rather sensitize as many people as possible to recognize abusive behavior and deal with it properly.
What developments have there been in prevention in the past?
There are always new insights into which aspects can still be improved. For example, we now have to take social media more into account. Because sexual abuse can also occur in the digital world.
Was the prevention work always met with open ears?
In the beginning there was a lot of resistance and skepticism. For example, some said: “Why do I have to go to prevention training, I’m not a perpetrator after all?” After the development of prevention training and protection concepts, it is now a question of what we can still improve and where there may still be blind spots. The protection concept must not remain in the drawer, we have to fill it with life.
What has changed in the Diocese of Essen in recent years?
The awareness of prevention is there today and the relevance of the topic has reached everyone. After the MHG study, there were many projects to change structures and prevent future sexual abuse. We thought about many questions: Who has power and makes decisions? Is power shared in a leadership team? What complaints channels are there and are they clearly communicated? Are decisions transparent? We asked ourselves these questions and, for example, introduced many management bodies that make joint decisions.
Do you see yourself as a pioneer in prevention work?
The topic of abuse in the church came up early on and the Catholic Church has therefore been involved in prevention work for many years. Supporters from culture and sport come to us and ask us about prevention concepts and want to take part in our training courses. In NRW we also get feedback from other dioceses that we are very far ahead.