More than 15,500 children suffered sexual abuse in Germany last year, according to a special analysis of police crime statistics.
German police have recorded a significant increase of depictions of sexual abuse against children last year compared to the year before, the country's top criminal police official has said.
More than 39,000 cases — or an increase of 108.8 percent — came to the attention of authorities last year, according to a special analysis of police crime statistics presented on Monday to reporters in Berlin.
Those cases include the distribution, acquisition, possession and production of depictions of sexual violence against children and teenagers.
According to the report, known cases of child sexual abuse rose by 6.3 percent last year to more than 15,500.
The annual figures only cover the fraction of cases that police are aware of — the real figures are expected to be much higher, said Holger Muench, the head of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office.
Authorities estimate that one to two students per school class in Germany are affected by sexual violence.
Muench also said that more people are reporting suspicions of child abuse than in the past.
“We very much welcome this: serious acts of violence against children and young people, as the weakest members of society, must be particularly outlawed, prosecuted and brought to an end,” he said.
'Europe becomes a hub'
Germany's Independent Commissioner on Child Sexual Abuse, Kerstin Claus, pointed out that Europe has become a hub for the dissemination of abuse images.
“We need increased European cooperation and significantly more investment in the human and technological resources of the investigating authorities," she demanded.
"Every investigative success is important because it offers the chance to stop acute child abuse and prevent further acts.”
Later on Monday, police and prosecutors in Cologne presented new findings about a suspected sexual child abuse case, including huge amounts of child abuse depictions, involving a 44-year-old German man.
“I am truly shocked and stunned," Cologne Police President Falk Schnabel told reporters. "I have not yet encountered such a level of inhuman brutality and callous indifference to the suffering of young children in pain with their cries and obvious fear.”
The married man, whose name wasn't given in line with German privacy rule, offered his services as a babysitter online. He abused babies as young as a month old and teenagers up to 14 years old.