The government is to open three new centres for the care of victims of sexual violence, the federal minister for equal opportunities, Kris Peeters, has announced. There are currently three such centres in Belgium, in Liege, Ghent and Brussels. The three new centres will be in Charleroi, Antwerp and Leuven. At the same time, financing of the three existing centres will be placed on a permanent basis rather than the current system that deals with them as pilot projects.
For the six centres, he announced a total budget of 4.5 million euros.
Peeters was speaking in a visit to the university hospital in Ghent, where the first pilot project in the scheme was carried out in 2017. The centres are linked to a city hospital, but offer a wider range of services, including police advice and contact with the local prosecutor’s office, as well as medical services and psychological counselling.
“When it comes to sexual violence, there is a large dark number that nobody knows, but which is still very worrying,” Peeters said, “According to estimates, 90% of victims never bring a complaint. The centres show some signs of helping victim to take that step. “Almost seven out of ten victims who turn up at the centres go on to file a complaint with the police,” he said.
In just over a year that they have been operating fully, the three existing centres have dealt with 1,281 victims of sexual violence, both women and men, at a ration of roughly nine to one. The average age of victims is around 24, with the majority ranging between 11 and 37. Nearly one in five is aged under 15. A large majority of cases – 83% – are complaints of rape.