Worrying rise in child and student victims of sexual violence

Worrying rise in child and student victims of sexual violence
The Sexual Violence Support Centre in Charleroi. Credit: Belga/ Virginie Lefour

The latest figures from sexual violence help services have revealed a substantial rise in the number of victims who are minors and students.

The Federal Government has promised a more active and multidisciplinary approach to the widespread issue of sexual harassment and violence in Belgium, which includes opening up Care Centres after Sexual Violence (ZSG), reception points for victims where they can obtain psychological support, medical care and help to file a police report if they wish to do so.

As the number of such centres has risen in recent years, they are becoming more known to the general population, in turn seeing more victims being registered. A total of 3,287 victims went to such centres last year – almost twice the number of two years ago (1,662).

But in spite of the enlarged support structure, the latest figures compiled by the NICC (National Institute of Criminalistics and Criminology) still highlight serious concerns, especially when cases are broken down by age, stated Secretary of State for Gender Equality, Equal Opportunities and Diversity Marie-Colline Leroy.

Targeted help for the young

Half of all victims seeking psychological, medical and forensic care by trained staff were school-age children and students. The average age of victims is 24.

For Leroy, the figures show that the Care Centres play an important role. She added that she will submit a proposal to launch four new ones in Halle-Vilvoorde, Eupen, Mons and Walloon Brabant, on top of the 10 that should be in place by the end of the year.

The Institute for Gender Equality will also roll out an awareness campaign on sexual violence and the role of the centres this autumn. This will target minors, young people and undocumented migrants, who are considered a particularly vulnerable group as they lack knowledge about the care centres.

In the meantime, a campaign has been launched at locations where young people are often present such as festivals, parties and on university campuses, colleges and art schools.

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"The victims deserve the care they need: the care centres place the victims and their needs at the centre which helps advance the processing of what happened. We want more people to know that care centres after sexual violence exist, places where they can go for holistic care and where their needs and concerns are central," Leroy concluded.

Victims of sexual violence can call 1712 anonymously, chat on nupraatikerover.be (in Dutch) or seksueelgeweld.be (in Dutch, French and German) for more information, or can visit one of the centres to receive help after experiencing sexual violence.

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