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    Bundeswehr Rape Claims Double, German Defense Minister Sees 'Positive Sign'

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    In the wake of a string of scandals involving sexual assault and abuse earlier this year, the German Bundeswehr has continued to experience a stark increase in the number of sexual assault claims; German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has welcomed the increase in complaints.

    The German armed forces have seen a sharp increase in the number of sexual assault claims made by members. Up to September 30 this year, there were 187 allegations of sexual assault made by members of the Bundeswehr, in comparison with 128 allegations over the whole of last year.

    According to the Bundeswehr, the figure includes several historical cases which have been re-opened after the victims complained they were dissatisfied with the handling of the case.

    There has also been a significant increase in the number of rape claims. Up to November 14, 2017, there were 11 cases of alleged rape, in comparison with five over the whole of 2016.   

    Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told Bild the figures were a "positive sign."

    "In society, sexual assaults are punished and equally, they are punished in the Bundeswehr. We want a climate of openness in the troops, in which everyone has the confidence to report injustice and violence. It is a positive sign, that supervisors and teams are more likely to report incidents," she said.

    On Wednesday, it was reported that two female soldiers had been raped at the Toderdorf barracks in Schleswig-Holstein, north Germany. The rapes of the women, aged 18 and 22, were allegedly committed by a 29-year-old man and filmed by another soldier; the incident occurred after a party at the barracks. The victims and the perpetrator belong to Air Defense Missile Group 21, which operates weapon systems such as Patriot, Spiegel reported.

    Earlier this year, the German Bundeswehr was hit by a series of scandals, including allegations of humiliation, violent assault and sexual assault of new recruits. It was also revealed that a soldier, Franco A., had been allowed to serve in the Bundeswehr despite the fact that superiors knew he held far-right views. In May, Franco A. was arrested on suspicion of terrorism.

    A armoured howitzer Panzerhaubitze 2000 is pictured during a demonstration event held for the media by the German Bundeswehr in Bergen near Hannover, Germany
    © AP Photo / Michael Sohn
    Panzerhaubitze 2000
    However, Bild reports that the scandals have not tarnished the Bundeswehr’s popularity among the German public. According to an opinion poll by the Center for Military History and Social Sciences (ZMSBw), 80 percent of Germans have a positive view of the Bundeswehr and just 16 percent see it negatively. 

    The study posits that the German public most favorably views Bundeswehr operations within Germany: 80 percent see them positively, 5 percent negatively and 13 percent aren’t sure. With regard to foreign operations, 65 percent have a positive view, 9 percent negative and 22 percent are unsure.

    Soldiers from the guards battalion of the German armed forces Bundeswehr prepare beds as they transform the sports hall of the Jane-Addams high school into a refugee shelter in Hohenschoenhausen district in Berlin, Germany, December 8, 2015
    © REUTERS / Fabrizio Bensch
    Soldiers from the guards battalion of the German armed forces Bundeswehr prepare beds as they transform the sports hall of the Jane-Addams high school into a refugee shelter in Hohenschoenhausen district in Berlin, Germany, December 8, 2015
    The survey also found that Germans have little confidence in the Bundeswehr's equipment and armaments: just 33 percent of the respondents agreed that the Bundeswehr is well equipped, 30 percent disagreed, while the remaining respondents said they weren't sure.

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    soldier abuse, soldier, army, armed forces, German Bundeswehr, Ursula von der Leyen, Germany
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