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Legal information

Domestic violence encompasses many different forms of violence that are prosecuted under criminal law and by the police. There are several laws that can be applied.

You can read the wording of the most important laws here:

Here you will find further information on specific legal issues:



Criminal complaint

Domestic violence is punishable violence.

Domestic violence includes a number of acts sanctioned by criminal law that are prosecuted ex officio due to the public interest.

A report can be made by you as the victim - or by anyone else. This can be done in writing or verbally at any police station or public prosecutor's office. In the event of a police operation, the police may file a criminal complaint on their own initiative.

After the report, the authorities will begin their investigation. As the victim, you are the central witness. The police and/or the public prosecutor's office will most likely question you personally in the course of the investigation. Every witness to a criminal offense is obliged to testify, unless there is a close family relationship (right to refuse to testify). Following the investigation, the public prosecutor's office decides whether to open proceedings or whether to discontinue them, e.g. due to a lack of evidence.

As a general rule, the earlier the investigation can be started, the better the evidence and therefore the chance of prosecuting the offender.

You can read more about the process and your rights in criminal proceedings here:

In the case of rape/sexual assault, you can find further information at

You are considering whether you want to press charges or whether you should be questioned as a witness to a police report.

You may be confronted with conflicting feelings - this is understandable.
You can seek advice to gain clarity about what you can and want to do.

You can find information on advice centers here.


Stalking - law on the criminal liability of persistent stalking

Love mania, power and revenge are not only male motives. Women also resort to stalking, are perpetrators and torment their victims.

Stalking is a punishable offense!

The law on the criminal protection of stalking victims has been in force since March 31, 2007. The improved protection against stalking is laid down in the Criminal Code § 238 Stalking.

When does this law apply?

If someone is stalking you without authorization and seriously interfering with your way of life by persistently

  • seeking you out,
  • making contact by telephone or otherwise,
  • placing unwanted orders for goods or services in your name (example: you repeatedly receive parcels that you have not ordered).
  • threatens you with injury or similar.

In addition to Section 238 of the Criminal Code, there is also the Protection against Violence Act, which provides for penalties in Section 4 of the Protection against Violence Act.

Your options:

  • If you know the stalker by name, you can apply to the local court where you live for a protection order against them under the Protection against Violence Act.
    If the stalker violates this, he is liable to prosecution and you can report him to the police and file a criminal complaint.
  • The stalker's actions not only violate your privacy and make him liable to prosecution for stalking, but often also violate other criminal laws.
    Even if you do not know the stalker, you can file a complaint against "persons unknown" at any police station. The police will then make every effort to identify the stalker.
    Criminal offenses such as insulting, threatening, coercion, trespassing, assault, damage to property are possible. Finally, the stalker can be taken to court for their actions.
  • You can also always call the police emergency number (110).

Protection order

With a protection order, the local court can permanently prohibit the stalker from

  • staying near your home or visiting other specific places where you regularly spend time (such as your workplace, shopping centers or leisure facilities),
  • contact you (e.g. by telephone, letter, text message or e-mail),
  • arrange meetings with you, even "accidental" ones...

The legal basis for this is the Protection against Violence Act.
(Source: Flyer Stalking from the AK Gewaltschutzgesetz)




Information for people without German citizenship

Domestic violence is always wrong and must not be excused as culturally determined.


Right of residence

If a foreign woman without a secure right of residence wants to prevent her deportation, advice from a legal advisor is essential.

Women's shelters and advice centers know such specialists in residence law.

Residence Act

According to § 31 of the Residence Act, women are granted a right of residence independent of their husband after two years of cohabitation.
In the case of separation due to exceptional hardship (sexual abuse in the family, serious bodily harm by the husband) even earlier.

Migrant women who have acquired legal residence status through marriage often fear that this status may be jeopardized by divorce.

The following institution can provide you with professional advice on this:

Refugio Münster - Psychosocial Refugee Aid
Hafenstraße 3-5
48153 Münster
Telephone: 0251-1 44 86 31
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Further information can be found on the homepage:

Medical treatment

If the effects of the violence are so severe that you need medical help, but you do not have health insurance cover, you can get help at this facility:

Medical consultation hours for people without health insurance and without valid residence status

Malteser Hilfsdienst e.V.,
Münster diocesan office,
Daimlerweg 33,
48163 Münster,
Tel.: 0251/971210
(Mon - Fri 9:00-16:00)

Expulsion from home and ban on return

The NRW Police Act was amended at the same time as the introduction of the Protection against Violence Act in 2002 in order to improve protection and assistance for victims of domestic violence.

According to this law, the police can immediately expel the perpetrator from the home and issue a 10-day ban on returning. Because:

Whoever hits has to leave, the victim stays in the home.

When leaving the apartment, the perpetrator can take urgently needed items with him/her in the presence of the police. The key to the apartment is handed over.

The basis for such a measure is the police's assessment of the risk situation. The ban on return is checked by the police.

This period is intended to allow the victim to calm down, receive advice and take further steps, such as applying for a restraining order under the Protection against Violence Act.

When does § 34a of the NRW Police Act apply?

The prerequisites are

  • a current danger
  • to the life, limb or freedom of a person
  • in the domestic community or in a domestic relationship in which the person at risk lives
    due to domestic violence.

The condition is that the danger to life, limb or freedom of a person exists in the domestic community or in the domestic relationship. The authorization only applies if the person at risk (not necessarily the perpetrator of the violence!) lives permanently in the home in which the facts giving rise to the danger occur."
(Source: Allgemeines Verwaltungs- und Eingriffsrecht im Polizeidienst Volume 2, 2002, p. 292)

The following measures are possible:

  • The police may enter the home and search it if necessary.
  • The offense is prosecuted by the police even without a criminal complaint from the victim, although a criminal complaint from the victim is required for certain offenses.
  • The police can immediately expel the perpetrator from the shared home for up to 10 days in accordance with Section 34a of the NRW Police Act and issue a ban on return. The victim may remain in the apartment.
  • If the perpetrator violates the ban on return, coercive measures such as a fine or detention can be taken.
  • The ban on return is checked by the police at least once during its validity.
  • During this time, the offender may only visit the home when accompanied by the police and only to retrieve urgently needed items. He must provide credible evidence of this.
  • If necessary, the offender must hand over the house and apartment keys to the police.

Note: The police alone assess the danger and will enforce a ban on return and prosecute the offense accordingly - regardless of whether the victim wants this or not.
(Source: "Domestic violence and police action", p. 25)

NRW Police Act (German law text)



The Protection against Violence Act

The Protection against Violence Act was introduced nationwide in 2002 and amended in 2021. The aim of this regulation is to improve protection and help for victims of domestic and sexualized violence.

If you are affected by

  • assaults against physical integrity and/or sexual self-determination,
  • threats of these violations,
  • stalking

you have the option of applying to the local court for a restraining order. If the judge makes a decision on the basis of your information, this can mean that the perpetrator

  • the shared home may no longer be entered.
  • distance must be kept from you.
  • no contact may be made with you.

Such orders are usually valid for several months.

Any breach of this is a separate criminal offense and must be reported to the police and the local court.

The Violence Protection Act as German law text

This is how the police helps victims of crime

In Germany everyone has the right to physical integrity and protection of property. Violations of this are prohibited by law and will be prosecuted.

In case of emergency you can contact the police on 110.

  • If you want to report an incident to the police, you can contact any police station. You may bring a person you trust and/or a lawyer with you to file a complaint.
  • The police file a criminal complaint.
  • She carries out investigations and can secure evidence. To do this, she interviews witnesses, secures evidence, searches for and questions the perpetrators.
  • If you have difficulties with the German language, an interpreter will be hired.
  • Under certain conditions, she can temporarily arrest the perpetrator.
  • The police will inform you about the further course of the criminal proceedings, your rights as a victim and tell you where you can get further help, advice and support.
  • The police will give you instructions on how to behave.
  • After completing the investigation, the police forward all documents to the public prosecutor's office. This is where it is decided whether charges will be brought before the court or not.

The police advice center/criminal commissioner for crime prevention and victim protection:

The criminal police advice center gives you an overview of police measures to prevent and prosecute crimes and explains the criminal investigation process. It provides information about the possibilities and limits of the Violence Protection Act and about further advice and support options.

As police officers, police officers are legally obligated to file criminal charges if criminal matters are discovered.