Current Research Projects

Sexual abuse by a parish priest in the parish of Fuldatal-Ihringshausen in the 1980s: background, situational factors, conclusions

Sexual abuse in the protestant church (Evangelische Kirche Deutschland) – A qualitative study

Directors: Prof. Dr. Mechthild Bereswill, Section of Sociology of Social Differentiation and Socio-culture, Prof. Dr. Theresia Höynck, Section of Child and Youth Law, Kassel University

Research assistants: Fanny Petermann and Stella Schwarz
Project duration: 01/11/2023 – 31/10/2025

The research project focuses on structures and mechanisms that protect perpetrators in relation to the systemic dimensions of sexual abuse. The research is guided by questions about actors and power relations, forms of action and rituals as well as theological-pedagogical t discourses and knowledge cultures.
The interdisciplinary research project uses qualitative social research methods. On the one hand, interviews with those affected and other contemporary witnesses are conducted and analyzed. On the other hand, document analyses are carried out.
The project is funded by the Protestant Church of Kurhessen-Waldeck (Evangelische Kirche von Kurhessen-Waldeck - EKKW).

The prosecution of rape in Lower Saxony

The research project is headed by Prof. Dr. Theresia Höynck, University of Kassel, as well as Bettina Zietlow, Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony (KFN) and Prof. Dr. Christian Pfeiffer, former director of the KFN.


The project is supported by an expert advisory board consisting of representatives from the police, the judiciary, the legal profession, counseling centers, academia, and the Lower Saxony Ministry for Social Affairs, Health, and Equality.


Research assistant: Patrik Schmidt


The prosecution of rape is a controversial topic in Germany. On the one hand, the burdens of the criminal proceedings on the alleged victims are always at the center of the debate. One example is long waiting periods before testifying in the courtroom and the length and number of victim interviews with the police. Often, criminal proceedings do not end with the conviction of an offender, and there are significant differences in the ratio of settings, acquittals, and convictions across states.


Our research project aims to investigate both the burden on the women concerned and the characteristics and processes of criminal proceedings. In this context, we will also look at the possible effects of the amendment of the Sexual Offenses Act in 2016. The goal is to better understand criminal proceedings and to suggest starting points for improvements based on these findings.


To study the prosecution of rape, we use four different methods: (1) a written victim survey, (2) a case file analysis, (3) an analysis of individual records of the prosecution statistics, and (4) an expert:ing interview. As an example, we focus on the federal state of Lower Saxony.


In the course of the (1) victim survey, all affected women are contacted who reported a rape in Lower Saxony between 2013 and 2018. They are asked to answer questions in writing and anonymously about their experience in and around their criminal proceedings. With this method, we particularly want to capture the personal experience of the affected women. However, the method also offers conclusions about characteristics of criminal proceedings that influence the outcome of the proceedings. In the course of (2) file analysis, we analyze a selection of criminal case files from 2014 to 2016 in Lower Saxony. Here, we consider attitudes as well as acquittals and convictions. With this, together with the questionnaire, we aim to determine characteristics that may influence the outcome of the proceedings. The (3) analysis of individual records of the criminal justice statistics and the (4) expert:inside interview are complementary methods to deepen and support the findings from the questionnaire survey and the file analysis.


The project is funded by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Social Affairs, Health and Equality. The survey will take place in the third and fourth quarters of 2021. First publications of the results are planned in 2022.