Sexual abuse on the rise among Swiss teens

In 2010, 24 percent of all defendants in cases involving sex crimes were minors themselves, police statistics show.

But experts from hospitals and lobby organisations say the number of cases in which the abuser is underaged is actually much higher, since this kind of crime is often not reported to the police.

“Only a small proportion of perpetrators will be prosecuted,” said Ulrich Lips, head of the Child Protection Group at Zurich children’s hospital, to SonntagsZeitung.

In his view, between 30 and 45 percent of sexual assaults over the last five years have involved minors as both victim and perpetrator.

Police crime statistics support experts’ testimonies, with the proportion of suspected underage offenders rising in 2009 and 2010, reports SonntagsZeitung.

Child protection specialists, both from hospitals and lobby organisations, are alarmed by the increasing number of assaults on children committed by other minors. And many still go unreported, since young people talk more with their peers about these incidents than with adults, and are often unaware that aspects of their behaviour may count as criminal acts.

The Swiss Foundation for the Protection of Children criticises the lack of accurate figures.

“In children’s hospitals, the police deal with certain [abuses], and counselling services with others,” said the head of the organisation, Kathie Wiederkehr.

A failure to gather statistics more effectively has made it difficult to know the full extent of the problem and therefore raise awareness among politicians, public authorities and the police, she said.

To aid in raising awareness, Social Democrat national councillor Chantal Galladé wants to create a special database to quantify the incidence of child abuse in Switzerland, and intends to take the issue to the National Council in the spring.

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