Advice and Counselling Centres

Did you experience sexual abuse in your childhood or adolescence? Or do you suspect that a child or adolescent is being sexually abused? An advice and counselling centre is there to give you support. They provide you with information, you can ask them questions and discuss how to proceed from here.

How do advice and counselling centres provide support?

Eine Beratungsstelle ist dafür da, Menschen in Not zu unterstützen. Es gibt allgemeine Beratungsstellen und auf ein Thema spezialisierte Fachberatungsstellen.

An advice and counselling centre helps people in need. There are general advice and counselling centres and those who specialise in a specific area. You can contact an advice and counselling centre if you have experienced abuse, or suspect someone else might be experiencing it, and would like specific and practical support or more information. The counselling sessions are usually free, and in some rare cases you will be asked for a voluntary donation. The counselling is of course confidential and, if you like, anonymous.

The professionals at the advice and counselling centre take their time to listen to you. This also applies if you are not affected yourself, but have a suspicion and want to help another person. Tell them about your situation. Describe your suspicions. Ask them any question you may have – even if you are unsure. Advice and counselling centres help you get your bearings. Visiting an advice and counselling centre is not binding in any way and certainly does not constitute taking legal action.

The first step: Organising your thoughts and thinking about what to do next

In a first step, a counsellor will discuss the situation with you. You can take your time and tell them how you're feeling and what challenges you are facing. The counsellor will discuss your options with you and how to proceed from here – so that you can make a decision that is right for you. This includes whether you would like further support and, if so, what kind of support. Most advice and counselling centres are well networked within the region and, if necessary, can put you in touch with medical, therapy or legal professionals.

This is what you can do if you have a suspicion

If you have a suspicion, you can discuss what to do next. If you need to talk to any public authorities, the advice and counselling centres will help you get in touch with them: They prepare your meetings with the authorities and can even accompany you there. This is especially helpful if you want to share your information with the youth welfare office ("Jugendamt") or with the police. Advice and counselling centres know who the right contact persons are and assist you. The advisors of the „Sexual Abuse Help Line“  0800 22 55 530 always lend a sympathetic ear.

Trust your instincts and do not hesitate to call an advisor of the Sexual Abuse Help Line – even if you have doubts.

You can call them on 0800 22 55 530. Here you can find out more about what they have to offer.

What advice and counselling centres specialise in sexual abuse?

There are specialised abuse advice and counselling centres and general advice and counselling centres that provide advice on sexual abuse as well as many other topics.

Specialised advice and counselling centres offer specialised support

There are specialised advice and counselling centres throughout Germany that focus on sexual abuse. Some of them have advisors who have suffered sexual abuse themselves. They use the so-called victim-controlled approach. People can turn to a specialised advice and counselling centre even if their experience happened a long time ago. Advisors know the impact many people suffer from and what kind of support can be particularly helpful. For many individuals affected by sexual abuse and the people close to them, contacting a specialised advice and counselling centre is an important first step: they can open up there, they are taken seriously and they find contact persons as well as support.

Finding support as a helper

Auch als helfende Person – zum Beispiel als Angehörige:r, Freund:in, Nachbar:in, Trainer:in oder Fachkraft – können Sie sich an Fachberatungsstellen wenden. Schritt für Schritt können Sie mit den Berater:innen das weitere Vorgehen zum Schutz eines Kindes oder zur Unterstützung einer erwachsenen betroffenen Person besprechen. Mit sexuellem Missbrauch konfrontiert zu werden, ist für viele Menschen eine große persönliche Belastung. Die Berater:innen unterstützen Sie als helfende Person dabei, Ihre Gedanken und Gefühle zu sortieren. In der Fachberatungsstelle erfahren Sie Entlastung und Unterstützung. Sie finden dort einen Raum, das Gehörte oder Gesehene zu verarbeiten und sich mit dem Thema auseinanderzusetzen.

General advice and counselling centres can also help

General advice and counselling centres also work closely with those affected and their helpers. They are privately or publicly funded educational and family advice and counselling centres. They are an important cornerstone within the support system – especially in rural areas, where there are fewer specialised advice and counselling centres. General advice and counselling centres have expertise in a broad range of topics. This is what distinguishes their work. Their experience in advising and supporting people who have been sexually abused or people looking to help them differs significantly. Some general advice and counselling centres have one or more people who specialise in sexual abuse and offer advice on the topic.
 

Can I contact any advice and counselling centre?

Most advice and counselling centres offer support to anyone seeking advice – whether they are or have been affected by sexual abuse, want to help someone in their social environment who is or was affected by it, or suspect a person is the victim of abuse

Advice and counselling centre websites usually have sections on "Help for people affected", "Help for family members" and "Help for professionals". This information can also be found under „Finding help“. Many advice and counselling centres specialise in specific target groups. These include the following:

Gender and age

Many advice and counselling centres support either women or men, girls or boys who have suffered sexual abuse. These support services are usually also open to trans and non-binary individuals. There are also advice and counselling centres for everyone, regardless of age or gender. You can find out who advises whom under „Finding help“.

People with a migration or refugee background

Some advice and counselling centres offer specialist support to people with a migration and/or refugee background. Many of them have access to interpreters. Some also offer advice in different languages.

People with disabilities

Some services are specifically aimed at people with physical or cognitive disabilities, such as learning difficulties. They take into account their particular life situation, usually have wheelchair accessible rooms and, where possible, give advice in an easily understandable language or sign language. An increasing number of peer counselling services are also available. Here people with disabilities support each other and share their experiences. Hearing how others have dealt with a situation and what helped them can encourage you on your own path.

Catchment area

Many advice and counselling centres offer their services to a specific regional catchment area. Some of these services only offer advice to people who live in the same town or district. This depends on the type of funding they receive. Visit the advice and counselling centre's website to find out if they can offer support to you. If you are not sure whether a particular advice and counselling centre can support you, you can give them a call and ask. In our experience, many advice and counselling centres will find solutions for people who cannot find a suitable alternative nearby.

What happens to my data and information?

Advice and counselling centres work confidentially and usually also anonymously, if required. This means that you do not have to give them your name or address if you do not wish to do so.

Furthermore, advice and counselling centres are not obligated to report anything to law enforcement agencies or youth welfare offices. This means you can talk to an advice and counselling centre about anything that's on your mind. If you talk to them about an acute risk to the well-being of a child, advice and counselling centres will discuss the necessary steps to protect the child with you.

Do advice and counselling centres also offer therapy?

You will be advised on what kind of support is right for you. This can differ significantly, ranging from occasional talking sessions to regular counselling and support to therapy.

Many victims choose to have therapy to come to terms with their experiences of sexual violence. Again, there are many different options. Advisors know what these options are, explain the different therapeutic approaches to you and can help you find a suitable therapist. In addition, many advice and counselling centres offer their own therapy sessions, which their clients can attend while they wait for a suitable therapy appointment.

Find out here, when psychotherapy can help and what you should pay attention to.
 

Do counselling centres also provide information on sexual abuse?

Specialist advice and counselling centres in particular often provide a wide range of information on sexual abuse and provide helpful tips on how to protect children and what to do if you suspect someone is the victim of sexual abuse.

Many advice and counselling centres also offer information and training sessions on this subject. This is of particular interest to institutions that frequently deal with children and adolescents and want to be able to recognise instances of abuse and ensure that these children and adolescents are  protected as best as possible. Private individuals who want to know more about the topic and be able to help children in their environment can also attend these sessions.

How do I find a suitable advice and counselling centre?

We will help you find a suitable advice and counselling centre.

You can find the addresses of advice and counselling centres across Germany under „Finding help“ . Alternatively, you can anonymously call the Sexual Abuse Help Line free of charge on 0800 22 55 530. The help line is a service of the Independent Commissioner for Child Sexual Abuse Issues. They will provide you with initial advice. Help line professionals will answer any questions you may have on the subject and provide you with information on help services in your area.

How to contact an advice and counselling centre

We recommend that you get in touch with the advice and counselling centre by phone or email to make an appointment. This way you get a first impression of the advisors and have a specific date you can mentally prepare for. Many advice and counselling centres also offer online advice and have open office hours, which means you can drop in without needing an appointment. This can be the right thing to do for many people. But it can also involve having to wait.

Trust your gut instincts

When you contact a local advice and counselling centre, ask when you call to make an appointment whether your concern is a good fit for the advice and counselling centre's profile and whether they can help you. Often you can choose whether you would rather talk to a woman or a man. Trust your gut instincts:

  • Is the chemistry right between you and the advisor? Most advice and counselling centres allow you to change your advisor.
  • Do you feel that you are being taken seriously, understood and protected?
  • Do you feel that the atmosphere is calm, confidential and that you interact as equals?
  • Does the advisor respect your boundaries, or do you feel there is something inappropriate about their behaviour?

This will give you an accurate picture of the advice and counselling centre

To gain an accurate picture of the centre, ask them if they meet the following quality criteria:

  • Is it a member of a professional association?
  • Is it part of a professional network in the area?
  • Does it have an attitude that focuses on the victim?
  • Do the staff attend therapeutic supervision and other further training?
  • Does the advice and counselling centre have internal and external contact persons for complaints?

If you feel in good hands at the advice and counselling centre, you have taken a big step. You have a competent professional at your side who supports and assists you.

Finden Sie eine Beratungsstelle!

Wenn Sie sich vor Ort beraten lassen möchten: Unter „Hilfe finden“ erfahren Sie, welche Angebote es in Ihrer Nähe gibt.
Zu den Beratungsstellen

Stories that inspire courage

Interview | Counselling

Such a sensitive and personal topic always needs courage. But I do believe that making a call helps. It is a first step, a first "mustering up the courage". And that alone often makes all subsequent steps much easier.

Tanja von Bodelschwingh

Counsellor at the Sexual Abuse Help Line

To the interview
[Translate to Englisch:] Porträtfoto Tanja von Bodelschwingh
Interview | Victims and survivors

Being sexually abused by a woman was extremely damaging to my masculinity. I felt very conflicted for many years. It was really tough for me. It took me a long time to reconcile these two sides.

Nicolas Haaf

Member of the Council of Victims and Survivors

To the interview
[Translate to Englisch:] Porträtfoto Nicolas Haaf
Interview | Aufarbeitung

We want to learn from these stories. That is the central element of coming to terms with what happened: Looking back should form the basis of learning for the sake of today and for the future.

Barbara Kavemann

Member of the Independent Commission for Dealing with Child Sexual Abuse

To the interview
[Translate to Englisch:] Porträtfoto Barbara Kavemann
Interview | Self-help

In our self-help group, men can show their weaknesses and are not laughed at, but are respected. That alone is an experience: I don't have to play the tough guy, I can be seen to be vulnerable.

Max Ciolek

Member of the Council of Victims and Survivors

Zum Interview
[Translate to Englisch:] Porträtfoto Max Ciolek
Interview | Law

The developments I observe in many of the victims and survivors are very encouraging and motivating. Often they can find their old self again during this long process.

Petra Ladenburger
Lawyer

To the interview
[Translate to Englisch:] Porträtfoto Petra Ladenburger
Interview | People with disabilities

In acute crisis situations in particular, it greatly helps to seek advice from outside and not just stay in your own circle. We look at everything from an independent viewpoint and can help people view the situation neutrally.

Pia Witthöft

Head of the "Mutstelle" Counselling Centre

To the interview
[Translate to Englisch:] Porträtfoto Pia Witthöft

Sexual Abuse – we support you if you are looking for help and information.

anonymously, free of charge and across Germany

Give us a call – even if you're unsure

Talk to the advisors of the Sexual Abuse Help Line. Your call is anonymous and free of charge.

0800 22 55 530

Telephone hours:

Mon, Wed, Fri: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Tues, Thurs: 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Send us a message

– securely and confidentially

The Sexual Abuse Help Line also offers advice by email. By registering, the advice service remains confidential.