Swiss feel shock after mass abuse of disabled youngsters
Swiss care workers expressed shock and betrayal on Wednesday after police revealed that a therapist admitted to 29 years of sex abuse on at least 114 mainly handicapped youngsters he tended for.
Police in canton Berne revealed that the social worker had taken photographs and video of his acts, in which his victims showed evident suffering despite sometimes being unable to speak because of their disability.
Most of the alleged victims were young men and women who were mentally or physically disabled, as well as the children of other staff in the institutions, authorities said. The youngest was just one year old.
The Swiss association of institutions for handicapped people (INSOS) said it was "deeply dismayed" by the case, after prosecutors accused the 54-year-old of committing abuse in eight institutions in Switzerland and one in Germany.
INSOS director Ivo Loetscher-Zwinggi called for a thorough investigation and support for victims, their families as well as staff in the homes
"Their confidence has been so deeply betrayed by the accused," the association added.
A shaken looking Peter Niederhaeuser, head of a foundation running one of the homes near Berne where the man reportedly worked over a six year period, told Swiss television that 20 children were thought to have been abused there.
Investigators are not ruling out more cases after the man admitted to 114 instances of sex abuse and eight more "attempts" during questioning over the past 10 months.
Gabriele Berger, head of the special investigations unit at Berne police said many of the victims could not express themselves verbally, and were in permanent residential care.
She told Swiss television SFTV that 18 videos and photographs taken by the man showed abuse, which often took place while he was on night duty.
"It is obvious how the victims show their repulsion, how they try to push the accused away, show pain or burst into tears," she said.
Berger said Tuesday that the man had shown a sense of relief at being caught last year after two handicapped youngsters in care told their parents about sexual contact with a member of staff.
"The man describes himself as a pedophile, he explained that he was aware of his misdemeanours for decades," she added.
© 2011 AFP