Sexual violence is still omnipresent in Belgium, affecting the lives of many residents every day. The government has already created centres which provide multidisciplinary care for victims, but with high demand for these services, more places are needed to keep up.
In the first five months of this year, 1,142 victims of sexual violence were admitted to the six existing Sexual Violence Support Centres (CPVS) across Belgium, according to the latest data. To put this in perspective, in the four years and seven months since the first centres were created, this number was just over 6,000.
While the fact these centres are more commonly known likely contributes to the growing number of victims, sexual violence still being rampant in Belgian society, from the academic world to nightlife, plays a big role in upping the number of people seeking help.
"Official police statistics show that in Belgium an average of ten rapes are reported per day. It is estimated that four out of five victims never file a complaint," a statement from Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Sarah Schlitz, read.
Completing the puzzle
Schlitz is therefore calling on the government to open a total of 14 CPVSs (four more than the ten already planned or existing ones), where victims receive psychological, medical and forensic care by trained staff, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
This means there would be one for every public prosecutor's office in the country to "considerably facilitate" the work of the judiciary and the police when it comes to combatting sexual violence.
"Four pieces of the puzzle are missing to ensure that the territory is fully covered with CPVSs and that the reception is even more qualitative," she noted, stressing that opening more centres has also been requested by universities, key people in the justice system and the police.
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"I am counting on my colleagues in the Government to support this request to extend the network to 14 CPVS, but I also insist on the fact that for each victim, wherever they are, the door of an existing CPVS is always open to every victim, wherever they are," Schlitz said.
The majority of people seeking help at these centres (90%) are girls and women. The average age of the victims coming to the centres is 23: 35.1% of the victims were minors (under -18s) and 64.9% were adults.
Among women, rape was the most common reported act of sexual violence (60%), while among men, this accounted for almost 50% of cases. In 38% of cases, victims were attacked by an acquaintance.