This is a shortened version of the brochure. The complete text can be downloaded here.
- What you should do directly after an attack
- Should I file a police report?
- Filing a police report
- What should I do if the perpetrators file a complain against me?
- How long will the police investigation take?
- Stay of investigations
- Testifying in court
- What is accessory prosecution? (Nebenklage)
- Compensations for material damages and personal suffering
- Possible consequences of an attack
- Going public
Try not to isolate yourself but ask people you know and trust for support.
Document injuries and damages
Seek medical attention even if your injuries initially appear to be minor. Ask your doctor for an attested medical certificate listing all your injuries. Visible injuries should be photographed. The same applies to damages. Damaged or dirtied clothing and other items should be retained as evidence. The more precisely you document the injuries and damages incurred, the better your case can be presented and substantiated in court.
Memory protocol (Gedächtnisprotokoll)
Whether you are directly affected by the assault or a witness to it, you should write down your recollections as quickly as possible and independently from others. Take time to document everything you can remember about the incident. Describe precisely how it happened. Record the time, the weather and lighting conditions, the perpetrator’s outer appearance and what he or she said. Pay particular attention to the little details which might at first seem unimportant.These ‘memory protocols’ will help you to recollect the events in detail if you have to testify about them months later. You can write your memory protocols in your mother tongue. They are for your own use only, as personal memory aid.
Should I file a police report?
Are you uncertain whether you should report a crime to the police or not? Many people feel the same way. There are specific reasons why people choose not to report a crime. Bad experience in the past of similar incidents often play a role. If the victims of racially motivated violence have already had the experience of being treated as suspects by police officers, they are likely to avoid contacting the police.
There are many reasons to report a right-wing act of violence:
- Perpetrators need to be shown that there are boundaries they cannot cross. It is unacceptable for people to be viewed as “inferior”, to be insulted, threatened or beaten, and treated as human punching bags.
- Filing a complaint sends a clear message to the perpetrators. It shows them that victims and witnesses will not allow themselves to be intimidated.
- Reporting a crime to the police will not solve the victim’s personal problems, nor will it remedy the societal reasons for right-wing violence. However, filing a complaint is the first step towards leaving behind the role of the victim and actively dealing with the incident.
- Filing a police report is a prerequisite to qualify for financial compensation and, possibly, to claim Compensations for material damages and personal suffering.
- Only when a complaint is filed the event of an assault will appear in the police’s crime statistics. It is important that such acts of violence are documented. Only then the general public will take notice of these crimes and take them seriously. Many people in Germany still underestimate the scale of extreme right-wing violence.
Filing a police report (Strafanzeige)
Filing a police report
Initially this is just a report informing the law enforcement authorities that a crime has taken place. It can be filed at any police station. There is no deadline to file a complaint. But it is in your own interest you should try to file a police report as soon as possible.
Summonable address (Ladungsfähige Anschrift)
When you file a police report, you will usually be asked to provide your personal data: name, date of birth, birthplace, current address and occupation. If you are afraid that the accused will be informed of your home address, you are allowed to provide another address, known as a summonable address (Ladungsfähige Anschrift). For example, you could use the address of your lawyer or your workplace. However, you must ensure that the police and the judiciary can summon you at any time using this address.
Request to prosecute (Strafantrag)
You should be aware that certain offences – for example defamation – will be prosecuted only if the aggrieved party files a Request to Prosecute (Strafantrag). Instead of simply reporting the facts to the police, you must state in writing that the police should prosecute the perpetrators(s). For you there is not disadvantage in doing so. The Request to Prosecute (Strafantrag) can be filed together with the police report. When filling out the police complaint form you simply have to tick the box marked >>Ich stelle Strafantrag<< (“I file a Request to Prosecute”). Obligation to investigate (Ermittlungspflicht) After a police report has been filed, the police and the public prosecutors are obliged to begin investigating the complaint. Once you have submitted a police report the matter of further investigation is no longer in your hands. The police and the public prosecutors are now responsible. A submitted police report can no longer be withdrawn.
Uncertainty when dealing with the police
Right to an interpreter
If you don’t feel confident dealing with the police on your own, you should have a trusted person or an employee from Opferperspektive accompany you when you file a police report. However, the investigating officers can decide whether the person accompanying you is allowed to be present during the interrogation or not.
If you don’t feel comfortable speaking German, you have the right to an interpreter at no cost to you. Insist on it!
Case number (Tagebuchnummer)
Make sure to ask for a written confirmation of your police report which lists the so-called >>Tagebuchnummer<< (case number). Knowing this number will make it easier for you to make inquiries about your police report or the status of the investigation at a later date.
Obligation to accept a police report
In any case, the police are obliged to register your complaint. Sometimes the police officers advise the victims not to file a police report. If you feel that the police have treated you inappropriately, sent you away, or did not provide you with a written confirmation of your complaint, you should not accept this. You can, for example, demand to speak to a superior and try to clear up the matter.
Making a formal complaint against the police (Dienstaufsichtsbeschwerde).
If the discussion with the superior proves unsatisfactory and the behaviour of the respective police officer (s) was clearly inappropriate, you can file a disciplinary complaint against the police.
The role of the police and the public prosecutor
The public prosecutor heads the investigations
As soon as the police have reasons to suspect that a crime has been committed, they are obliged to objectively investigate the facts. The investigations are headed by the public prosecutor, who will instigate what is known as the so-called >>Ermittlungsverfahren<< (preliminary investigations).
During the preliminary investigations, the police and the public prosecutor check both inculpatory (belastende) and exculpatory (entlastende) circumstances. Therefore you can not expect that the police and the public prosecution will unreservedly be on your side. But you can expect that you will be treated fairly, that your particular situation as the crime victim will be taken into consideration, and that your assessment that the crime was politically motivated will be met with sufficient response.
Giving testimony to the police or the public prosecutor
If you are summoned by the police
Usually your role in the preliminary investigations and the following court proceedings will be that of a witness. As explained above, usually the first interrogation is done by the police. You are not obliged to give a statement to the police. But consider this: As the injured party, you play a particular important role as a witness in a court case. Even if you didn’t witness the crime directly yourself, you are the person who is most likely to provide information about the damage caused by the perpetrators. During the preliminary investigations, the police and the public persecutors have to rely especially on your assistance. A transcript will be made of the interrogation which should be presented to you and signed by you. Read the transcript carefully and correct if there is any mistake.
If you are summoned by the public prosecutor
If you receive a summon from the public prosecutor, you must appear. During each interrogation you may bring a trusted person along. However, if you are of legal age the officers conducting the interrogation must give their consent. Therefore, it is best to inquire ahead of time. Of course your lawyer can also accompany you. Bring with you all the documents pertaining to the case (for example, damage assessments, medical certificates etc.).
What should I do if the perpetrators file a complain against me?
Right of self-defence
If you are attacked you have the legal right to use as much force as necessary to fend off your attackers (self-defence). This cannot be used against you in court. Do not be afraid to tell the truth when the police interrogates you. However, if you are uncertain whether your self-defence will be considered reasonable (”angemessen”), contact Opferperspektive or a lawyer.
Being summoned as a suspect
If the perpetrators file a claim against you – even if only to divert attention away from themselves as the guilty party – the police may summon you as a suspect. In this case, the general rule is that you do not need to report to the police station for interrogation. It is usually best to wait and see if the public prosecutor sends you a summon or drops the case against you entirely. However, if you are summoned by the public prosecutor, you must appear. By this stage, at the latest, you should hire a lawyer to represent you.
Clarifying your status in the proceedings
As a rule the police are required to make it clear to you whether you are being questioned as a victim of the crime or as a suspect. If you have been the target of an act of violence and decide to give the police details about it, you have the status of a victim/witness and are obliged to provide truthful statements. As the suspect you have the right to remain silent and refuse to make a statement. If, during questioning, you are unclear what your role is, you should make this known to the investigating officers and have it put on the record.
How long will the police investigation take?
Preliminary investigations (Ermittlungsverfahren)
The police are instructed to continue the investigations until they assess that further investigation will not lead to any new findings. Once the police have completed their investigation, they send all the files to the public prosecutor.
Inquiring about the status of the investigations (Sachstandsanfrage)
It may take a long time for a case to go to trial in a local or regional court, sometimes as long as two years. If you get the impression that little has happened since you filed your police report, you can time inquire about the status of the investigations or the court proceedings at any time.
When the preliminary investigations are conducted, the public prosecutor will decide whether to bring the case to court or to halt it. There are numerous reasons why a case can be stayed. For example, when there is insufficient evidence. If you have clearly stated your interest in seeing the perpetrator punished when you filed your complaint, the the public prosecutor’s office must explain to you in the termination notice (Einstellungsbescheid) why they have stayed the investigations.
Opportunity to appeal
If you believe that the public prosecutor has overlooked or misevaluated certain factors, you can file a written appeal against the decision to terminate the investigations. You can do this on your own or with the assistance of a lawyer.
Bill of indictment
If the public prosecutor decides to take the case to court the public prosecutor office will draw up a bill of indictment (Anklageschrift). In this bill the public prosecutor summarizes all the important findings from the preliminary investigations and determines under which sections of the Criminal Code the suspect will be charged. Then the judicial court will decide whether or not to pass the bill of indictment. Assuming the bill is passed, the “main court proceedings“ (Hauptverhandlung) will begin to which you will be summoned in due time.
Hearing of the witness
The hearing of witnesses in a trial is usually more formal than the interrogations previously conducted by the police or the public prosecutor. While at the police station you may have dealt with just one officer. During the main court proceedings in criminal courts usually all those involved in the case are present. Aside from the court officials others who are present are the defendants, the public prosecutor and the accessory prosecutors (Nebenkläger). If you feel uncomfortable in your role as a witness, it can help to take a look around the courtroom beforehand. This will make you feel more secure. To prepare for your testimony you should also re-read your memory protocols.
Participants in the trial
The defendants and the defence lawyers sit on one side of the courtroom. On the opposite side the public prosecutor is seated. If you have chosen to become an accessory prosecutors (Nebenkläger)then your lawyer will take his or her place next to the public prosecutor. The judge or judges sit at the front. Depending on the severity of the crime, there will be one to three professional judges and two lay judges (“Schöffen” or “Schöffinnen”). There is also a court reporter, responsible for transcribing the testimonies. The spectators can follow the court proceedings from the back of the courtroom.
Special case: Juvenile criminal law
If the accused are between 14 and 18 years then juvenile law is applicable. In that case, the general public is excluded from the court proceedings. If the accused are young adults between 18 and 21 years the court may apply the juvenile criminal law in individual cases and decide to exclude the public.
Trials are usually open to the public
If the accused is over 18 years, the trial is open to the public. You can bring along people you know to the court proceedings. This can make the atmosphere more pleasant for you and give you a sense of security.
You are not permitted to listen to the court proceedings before giving testimony. This ensures that your recollections are as unbiased as possible. If you have been summoned as a witness you will be asked to wait outside the courtroom until you are called in. You will then be asked to take your seat at a small table located in the middle of the courtroom. Try not to be upset or irritated by the presence of the accused who will be seated nearby. Try to focus your attention on the judge. If you feel extremely insecure your lawyer (or a trusted person) can sit next to you.
Instructions on your rights and obligations
Before the judge begins questioning you, he or she will inform you of your rights and obligations. This is a standard procedure. You will be alerted to the fact that you are obliges to tell the truth and that making false statements in the court is a punishable offence. Afterwards the judge will ask you questions about yourself, such as your name, age, profession, place of residence and your relationship to the accused.
The judge will then ask you to relate what you know about the incident. You should once again recount everything you can remember to give the court an impression of what really happened. If you can no longer remember something precisely you should say so. Afterwards you will be asked more questions.
Reading of statements
It is possible that in court certain sections from the testimonies you had previously given to the police will be read out to you. Do not worry about the word >>vorhalten<< (which usually means reproach in German). This term does not have a negative meaning for the jurists. This simply means that passages from your written statements will be read out to you.
The principle of orality
During questioning in court you may be asked to repeat yourself or answer the same questions repeatedly. This happens quite often. It does not mean that people have not been listening or that they do not believe you. Little details often play a significant role in legal rulings. For example, questions such as, With which hand did the accused hold the bottle? How many seconds passed between the rattling sound and the impact? This is because the court must be able to visualize how the attack happened. There is another reason. As a general rule the court can take into account only what has been said in the main hearing.
Who is allowed to ask questions?
In addition to the court itself, all the participants in the trial have the right to ask questions. This includes the public prosecutors, the defendants, lawyers, as well as your lawyer.
Assistance from the court
You may find the questioning unpleasant, especially if the defence lawyers try to get you entangled in contradictions. Try to remain calm. If you feel you are treated badly by the defence, you can turn to the judge for assistance. If you need to take a break do not be afraid to say so. The court is there to protect you. If you have opted to become an accessory prosecutors (Nebenkläger)your lawyer will be present and he or she can also intervene on your behalf.
Taking an oath is an exception
A courtroom trial operates quite differently from what you might have seen on television.There is no witness stand. Only after giving your testimony it will be decided if you are to take an oath or not. Crime victims are usually not required to take an oath. After you have testified you can sit in the visitor’s gallery or next to your lawyer. You can also leave the courtroom and have your lawyer inform you afterwards how the trial has proceeded.
What is accessory prosecution? (Nebenklage)
Playing an active role as accessory prosecution (Nebenklage)
As the victim of an act of violence, you can take an active role by choosing to become an accessory prosecutor and getting a lawyer to represent you. Becoming an accessory prosecutor means that you are party to the court proceedings and enjoy special rights.
Additional right to information
If your petition is granted, your lawyer can gain access to court records and file motions pertaining to the proceedings. This gives you more options when it comes to know more about the police investigations or the motivations of the perpetrators.
Right for your lawyer to be present
During the trial, your lawyer represents your interests as an accessory prosecutor. During the proceedings your lawyer sits next to the public prosecutor. Your lawyer has the right to: question the accused, witnesses and expert witnesses; make motions to hear evidence, and reject expert witnesses or even judges. Your lawyer is there to support you during your testimony and to protect you from objectionable or offensive questioning from the defence lawyer(s). Usually witnesses are allowed to enter the courtroom only after the accused has testified. As an accessory prosecutor you have the right to follow the court proceedings from the start.
Right of appeal
At the end of the proceedings, your lawyer can make a closing argument and ask for a certain verdict from the court. If the accused is acquitted of an offence, you can appeal the verdict.
Preconditions for accessory prosecution
Offences for which accessory prosecution is permitted
Accessory prosecution is possible for offences including, but not limited to, crimes causing bodily harm, homicide, and offences against sexual self-determination (such as sexual assault and sexual abuse). For defamation (libel or slander), robbery or blackmailing that did not lead to serious injuries, accessory prosecution is permitted only in exceptional cases. Accessory prosecution is not permitted for offences like coercion and threats.
Accessory prosecution in case involving juveniles
If the accused is not yet 18 years old juvenile criminal law is applicable in this case. An accessory prosecution is only possible in special juvenile cases in which a particularly serious criminal offence has been committed. In the court proceedings against young adults, namely those between 18 and 21 years, an accessory prosecution is permitted.
Seek legal representation
To get the most out of your role as an accessory prosecutor, you should hire a lawyer with experience in court proceedings involving accessory prosecution and who has adequate knowledge of right-wing motivated crimes. A lawyer is not only there to look after your interests during the trial. During the preliminary investigations earlier your lawyer can also accompany you when you give a statement to the police.
Who pays my legal fees?
Costs are incurred only if the accused are acquitted
If the accused are convicted in a trial, as a rule they must cover all of the legal fees and court costs. However, if the accused are acquitted, you – as an accessory prosecutor – may have to cover your own lawyer’s fees.
Competence is the determining factor
In all cases as an accessory prosecutor you should choose a lawyer who is professionally competent as well as able to predetermine the financial risk involved in a way that is clear and comprehensible to you. Here, too, Opferperspektive can help you make the right choice.
Financial assistance in the form of legal aid (Prozesskostenhilfe)
In a criminal case, you generally qualify for financial assistance in the form of legal aid if:
• due to your personal or financial circumstances, you can not afford to pay all or part of the costs, or can only pay them in instalments;
• the factual and legal position is considered difficult;
• you are unable to sufficiently look after your own interests or this cannot reasonably be expected of you.
The financial assistance for legal aid can be reclaimed
The question whether you are eligible to claim financial assistance for legal aid will be assessed ahead of time. To do this you must fill out a form that you can get from Opferperspektive or a lawyer’s office. It is important to note that – until four years after the handing down of the final and binding court verdict – the court can review your case to see whether your personal and/or financial status has changed. If so, you may be ordered to reimburse any financial assistance for legal aid that you had received.
To claim a free, initial legal consultation you can turn to the Weisser Ring, an organization which assists victims of crime across Germany. They issue legal consultation vouchers (Beratungsschecks) to the victims of crime and violence. With one of these vouchers, you are able to consult a lawyer of your choice and settle the accruing costs directly with Weisser Ring. To qualify for this initial consultation you need to contact the local wing of the Weisser Ring. You can find the address on their website. If your income is low, you can also apply to the relevant court for a “Beratungshilfeschein”, a legal consultation aid voucher. You can use it to seek advice from a lawyer of your choice who can then charge you a maximum of 15 Euros for the consultation.
Funding from the Der Deutsche Anwaltverein (DAV) (German Bar Association)
The Deutsche Anwaltverein (German Bar Association) supports a foundation which combats ring-wing extremism and violence. Applications to cover victim’s lawyer’s fees should be submitted to them via the law office representing you.
We are here to help
If you have questions about accessory prosecution (Nebenklage), the financial risks involved or the various ways of receiving support, you can also approach the staff of Opferperspektive.
Compensations for material damages and personal suffering
Civil suits and criminal proceedings
It is important to understand the difference between a criminal proceeding and a civil suit. In a criminal case, the public prosecutor – on behalf of the state – accuses the perpetrator of having broken the law. In a civil suit, the citizens settle their differences between themselves and potentially enforce a damage claim or compensation for personal suffering. Criminal proceedings and civil lawsuits fall under the jurisdiction of different courts. The proceedings are governed by different laws with varying rules of procedure and evidence.
Launching a civil suit
We strongly recommend that you wait for a criminal conviction before launching any civil suit against the perpetrators. That is because the judgements in the criminal court verdict describe in detail how the crime happened. This can help you substantiate your claims in a civil court.
Victims of crime or acts of violence have the opportunity to assert civil claims (for damage claims or compensation for personal suffering) during criminal proceedings – provided the accused was at least 18 years old at the time the crime was committed. This is called an adhesive procedure (Adhäsionsverfahren). You must submit a petition to the court for an adhesive procedure. You should discuss the pros and cons of an adhesive procedure with your lawyer.
Be aware of the financial risk
If you should follow up the criminal proceedings with a civil suit against the perpetrators or not, is a question you should discuss and decide with your lawyer. The considerable financial risk involved is something you particularly need to bear in mind.
Making damage claims
Basically a civil suit is about asserting your damage claims in the form of a lawsuit against the perpetrators. If your civil suit is successful, you will acquire a legal title which must be enforced if the perpetrators do not pay of their own accord. In that case the perpetrators must pay the costs of the proceedings as well as your lawyer’s fees. However, it often proves impossible to enforce payment as the perpetrator is found to be insolvent. Bear in mind that, in a civil suit, even if you get a legal title you could end up paying for not only your own lawyer’s fees but also for part of the costs of the court proceedings (for instance, the fees for expert opinions).
Limited financial assistance in the form of legal aid
In civil suits it is also possible to make an application for financial assistance in the form of legal aid. The prerequisites are that your lawsuit against the perpetrators has “a good chance of success” and that you lack sufficient financial resources to file the suit without legal aid.
A victim-offender-mediation aims to reach an out-of-court settlement between the offender(s) and the victim(s). This is achieved through mediation by a neutral party. Usually this involves negotiating compensation for damages caused – for instance, compensation for personal suffering. In the case of offences such as defamation, coercion, property damage or bodily harm, the public prosecutor can temporarily stay proceedings and refer the matter to an arbitration board.
If the mediation between the offender(s) and the victim(s) is considered successful according to the public prosecutor, preliminary investigations will be terminated for good. Otherwise, the compensation agreement will be seen as a mitigating factor. In case the victim-offender-mediation fails, preliminary investigations against the perpetrator(s) will be resumed.
The process of mediation
Usually the mediator will first hold separate talks with the aggrieved party and with the accused in order to clarify their expectations and goals, as well as to prepare them for the mediation. You are also able to bring along a confidant, someone you trust. This can also be an employee from Opferperspektive. You do not have to worry about being alone and without support when you are confronted with the offender(s) at the mediation. A victim-offender mediation cannot be carried out against your will.
You should first examine in detail whether you want to go through such a process at all. In general a victim-offender mediation can be a positive experience, because it opens up the possibility of engaging with the perpetrator in a way other than in a trial. Compensation can also be determined quickly and with a minimum of bureaucracy.
In practice, however, victim-offender mediation has often proven unsuitable when it comes to the acts of right-wing violence. This is especially true when offenders show no remorse for their crimes because their attitude is grounded in their ideology and backed up by their right-wing environment.
Examine the preconditions closely
As a victim of a racially or politically motivated criminal offence or act of violence, you shouldn’t be too quick to agree to an offer of victim-offender mediation. You should first examine the special preconditions closely. Here, too, the staff at the Opferperspektive can advise you.
Financial Compensation through the Federal Office of Justice
Fund for victims of right-wing violence
There is another route you can take to receive financial compensation. Since January 1, 2007 the Bundesamt für Justiz (Federal Office of Justice) has at its disposal a fund created by the German parliament to provide quick and non-bureaucratic compensation to the victims of right-wing, racist and anti-semitic violence.
Who is entitled to make a claim?
Claims can be submitted by people who have suffered injuries or health problems due to anti-semitic, racist, or right-wing violence, as well as by the surviving dependents of people killed in such attacks. Also eligible to claim are persons who stepped in to fend off such attacks on third parties, and sustained injuries as a result. Here not only an assault or other incident causing bodily harm is considered to be an ‘attack’. An attack includes cases where threats and insults were made. The Federal Office of Justice does not provide compensation for material damages.
For your claim to be approved, you must show that the crime was in all likelihood motivated by anti-semitism, racism or neo-Nazism. It is not necessary to determine the identity of the perpetrator. However, the attack must have been reported to the police.
Content of the claim
Your claim must contain a precise description of the incident – including information about the scene of the crime, the time it occurred and indications that the attack was motivated by right-wing ideology. Any injuries suffered should be clearly documented. We recommend that you also add doctor’s notes and – if applicable – medical bills, as well as photos of visible injuries.
Giving up your right to damage claims and compensations for personal suffering
With your claim, you as the aggrieved party, give your consent to the Federal Office of Justice to access the records held by the police, the public prosecutor or the courts. In addition, as the claimant, you transfer your rights to damage claims or compensations for personal suffering – in the approved amount – from the perpetrator to the Federal Office of Justice. In other words, if your claim is successful and you receive a certain sum from the Federal Office of Justice as compensation, the Federal Office of Justice will try to sue the perpetrator for that amount.
The right time to make your claim
An application can be filed at the Federal Office of Justice right after the crime takes place. However, under certain circumstances it is advisable to wait for the trial. This is especially true in cases where it is to be expected that the motive for the crime can be established more clearly in court. You should discuss the right time to make your claim with members of the Opferperspektive team. They can help you file it. The address for the Federal Office of Justice can be found here.
CURA – Victim support funds
Direct and bureaucracy-free assistance
This fund is set up by the AMADEU ANTONIO Foundation. They provide quick and unbureaucratic financial assistance to the victims of neo-Nazi and right-wing violence. Here victims can apply for financial assistance to cover the remaining legal fees, necessary medical treatment or financial emergencies that have arisen as the result of an attack. The fund’s financial resources are however limited. CURA’s address can be found here.
The Crime Victims Compensation Act
Covering the medical fees
If the injuries sustained during the attack mean that you will also be in need of medical treatment in the future, you can file a claim in accordance with the Crime Victims Compensation Act (Opferentschädigungsgesetz). This is a good idea if, for example, your teeth or your glasses were damaged, or if you have suffered physical constraints ever since the attack and you are likely to remain physically impaired in the coming years.
No compensation for material damages, no compensation for personal suffering
If your claim is approved, the department of social affairs and welfare (Amt für Soziales und Versorgung) will cover all the costs for medical treatment, such as a new pair of glasses or a stay in a rehabilitation clinic. A claim made under the Crime Victims Compensation Act however is not a substitute for a compensation for personal suffering. The benefits paid by the Crime Victims Compensation Act do not include compensation for material damages.
Who is eligible to make a claim?
Claims can be made by anyone who has suffered bodily harm, who has been the victim of arson, or a bomb attack, or who has been deliberately poisoned. Those who have been injured trying to fend off an attack are also eligible for benefits.
In some cases refugees are not entitled to claim benefits due to their residency status.
However, the claim processors have a certain amount of administrative discretion. So, no matter what your residency status is, you should always submit the application. The staff at Opferperspektive can assist you in making the application. Addresses for the social security office (Versorgungsamt), where the applications are to be handed over, can be found here.
Possible consequences of an attack
The physical injuries resulting from an assault are usually quite visible. Therefore they are recognized and treated. But even if no bodily harm has been done, the experience of violence frequently has further consequences. Most assaults are completely unexpected. Even when the perpetrator let go of you or runs off that does not mean that it is all over. For many people, an attack has after-effects. They suffer from bodily harm and sometimes their mental health suffers as well.
A radical change in your life
The psychological traces left by an act of violence vary from person to person. Some people have trouble sleeping while others become extremely irritable and suffer from nightmares, anxiety or exhaustion. Some consciously avoid the scene of the crime and no longer feel secure on the streets of their own city. Many people have difficulty to get the incident out of their head and some live in constant fear.
Losing your sense of security
Following an attack, you might feel as if you are going crazy or barely recognize yourself any more. These are normal reactions to the trauma you have been through. They are part of the process of working through and dealing with the experience. Being attacked severely undermines your subjective sense of security. The perpetrators want to deliver a clear message to their victims: „you’re not wanted here, you should leave“. At the worst, they deny their victims the right to life. As a rule, these messages are clearly understood by the victim and those around them, as well as by the potential victims.
It is just “the tip of the iceberg”
Many victims of right-wing violence have already had to deal with discrimination – whether as a punk in a village dominated by neo-Nazis or as an asylum seeker in an unwelcoming city. Such assaults are often just the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of their everyday experience with racism and exclusion. This makes it even more difficult for victims to come to terms with the attack. It can bring back memories of previous encounters with violence or traumatic experiences encountered when fleeing their homelands. This makes it harder for the victims to carry on with their regular everyday lives.
Talk about your feelings
Even if you prefer to put the whole incident behind you as quickly as possible it can still be important to talk about it. Many people find it helpful to have someone they can discuss their situation with. This could be a friend or a relative. However, sometimes it is easier to speak openly about your feelings with people who are not so close to you. In times like this the staff of Opferperspektive is there to help.
Give yourself time
It is important to take time to work through the experience of being attacked. At the same time, you should consciously resume activities which played a role in your life prior to the attack and which you enjoyed earlier. Usually after a few weeks the memories of the attack will fade out. Increasingly your focus will return to your regular daily routine and your fears will subside.
Seek professional help
If several weeks after the attack you still feel as if the attack has just happened and if you cannot get the images out of your head or notice worrying changes in yourself, you should seek professional help to prevent the development of a lasting disorder. The physical injuries resulting from an assault are there for everyone to see. Psychological trauma is less visible but needs to be treated and healed. We can refer you to experienced professionals who can help you deal with anxiety and other mental health issues.
Filing a complaint against the perpetrators will not solve the problem of right-wing violence on its own. In cities and villages, in schools or at the workplace, many people refuse to see that right-wing violence is a social problem in Germany. Going public can help to educate people, sensitize them to the issue and provoke discussion.
Press and public relations work
How you should go public and the point in time to do so should be consciously chosen by all those involved. There are many different ways and means of reaching out to the public: from press releases and letters to the editor to organizing information sessions, information booths, rallies and demonstrations.
If you opt to inform the media and the reports of your experience appear in press, you are helping to counter the widely-held view that right-wing violence is not a problem in your city or town.
What can be achieved?
You must decide what is appropriate for you. To do so, ask yourself the following questions: What do I want to achieve? Whom do I want to address? Do I wish to speak with the journalists? With whom do I want to work: a union, a refugee organization, a left-wing group, the church, political parties or a local alliance against the neo-Nazis?
We can advise you
You can turn to the staff at Opferperspektive for support and advice regarding public relations. If and when appropriate, you should also consult a lawyer to determine when and in which manner you should provide the press with the details of the attack and what difficulties could arise if you do so.