Sexualized Violence against Children

Sexualized Violence against Children

The Schwules Museum in Berlin is hosting an exhibition on sexual violence, aiming to shed light on the issue and provide a forum for the voices that go unheard.

In a joint innovative exhibition, Schwules Museum (the gay museum) and Archiv der deutschen Jugendbewegung (the archive of German youth movements) deal with a difficult legacy: the uncritical handling of testimonies of the justification of sexualized violence against children and young people in their own collections.


The joint exhibition “Aufarbeiten: Sexualized Violence against Children and Adolescents in the Sign of Emancipation” by Schwules Museum and Archiv der deutschen Jugendbewegung is self-critical examination of problematic legacies in both institutions’ collections. Schwules Museum (SMU) and Archiv der deutschen Jugendbewegung (AdJb) are central places of the commemoration of entangled, if different, emancipatory movements. Yet both archives contain evidence of the justification of sexualized violence against children and youth in documents and artifacts.

Both institutions are committed to reappraising the disturbing fact that the communities whose heritage they preserve created discursive space for, ideologically justified, and trivialized sexualized violence against children and adolescents. The exhibition confronts these histories by starting a conversation: about how it was possible that movements whose core concern was self-determination were so susceptible to the rhetoric of the perpetrators and so lacking in solidarity with the victims.

Institutional Work

As cultural-historical institutions, both archives understand their task as to reconstruct and critique the specific and different discursive formations that theorized, aestheticized, and thus legitimized sexualized violence against children and adolescents in the context of the gay liberation and youth emancipation movements. In doing so, they are expressly acting in the spirit of the demands of the victims of abuse, who ask that we not reduce reappraisal to the criminal prosecution of perpetrators, but instead look at the social context in which abuse occurs. Both institutions are committed to this work, have engaged in it on their own initiative, and see it as a crucial part of a responsible engagement with their own history.

The project uses the format of an exhibition to reach a broad public and the communities involved. Because historical research and collective negotiations have only just begun, the exhibition cannot present a a simple or assured narrative. Instead, the exhibition will present theses on how this disturbing chapter of our own history can be incorporated into the culture of remembrance and historiography.

Aufarbeiten: Sexualized Violence against Children and Adolescents in the Name of Emancipation

Opening: October 5, 2023
Duration: 6.10.2023 – 26.02.2024

Curated by: Dr. Birgit Bosold (SMU), Dr. Susanne Rappe-Weber (Archive of the German Youth Movement, AdJb), Dr. Tino Heim & Dr. Volker Woltersdorff.

The exhibition will open at Schwules Museum on October 5, 2023, and run through February 26, 2024, presenting exhibits from the holdings of the two archives. It will refrain from exhibiting the depictions of sexualized bodies of children and adolescents that have been so normalized in visual culture. Instead, the exhibition focuses on documentary material and the voices of those affected by sexualized violence.

Supported by the Hauptstadtkulturfonds Berlin and the Independent Commission for the Reappraisal of Child Sexual Abuse.
Image: Alexander Grey

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