Flemish cities light up to raise awareness of violence against women

Flemish cities light up to raise awareness of violence against women
The helpline's slogan "Call, mail, chat," projected on Hasselt's City hall. Credit: 1712

Several cities in Flanders will be lighting up their monuments and buildings as part of a campaign to raise awareness of violence against women in Belgium.

The message “Stop Violence” will be projected onto Antwerp and Hasselt’s city halls; on Bruges’ Concert Hall, an awareness-raising video about family violence will be shown on giant screens at the Ghelamco Arena; the words “Stop Family Violence” can be read on the silos at the Vaartkom in Leuven from 17:00 PM on Wednesday.

“There are two ambitions for this campaign, firstly to shine a light on the fact that this is a problem that affects many people, much more than we are aware of,” Wim Van de Voorde, the Flemish coordinator of the helpline for domestic violence (1712) which organised the initiative, told The Brussels Times.

In Belgium, one in seven women experienced partner violence last year and a shocking 16% of women were raped. According to 1712, almost 75% of people who contact the helpline are women.

“Secondly, these five provincial capitals, which together count more than one million inhabitants, play an important role in making a statement against violence, and shows that they want to work towards solving this issue.”

He added that by taking part in this campaign and projecting 1712 on a well-known building in their city, they are also supporting victims and informing citizens that they can contact the helpline with questions about violence, abuse and child abuse.

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The initiative comes in light of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2021 on Thursday, which, according to 1712, is an ideal moment to show support to victims and to bring the issue to the attention of all people in Flanders.

“Only if every policy level takes its responsibility can we tackle this problem at its root. The recent cases of sexual violence in Ghent and Brussels prove that all efforts are necessary,” Flemish Minister of Justice and Enforcement, Zuhal Demir, said in a statement.

Regional and local approach

Demir announced on Wednesday that a chain approach to dealing with intra-familial violence, bringing together police, prosecutors, social workers and (local) authorities, is now operational across Flanders, as West Flanders has now joined the other provinces.

“With the chain approach, all actors together offer an answer to all the causes in order to eventually put a structural stop to the violence,” she said.

The various cities taking part in this initiative already have various systems in place to help victims and combat this issue in a strategic way.

For example, in Antwerp, Bruges and Hasselt, various victim protection organisations have actively joined forces with the police to tackle family violence, and in some cases are bringing these services together under one roof by further developing Family Justice Centres.

The cities are also investing in assisting victims and bringing fellow sufferers of domestic violence together while working to make the topic more discussible.

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