There has been a 75% increase in the number of people asking for help from the Brussels Centre for the Treatment of Sexual Violence (CPVS) since the start of this summer.
Earlier this year, around 40 people attended the centre every month; this figure has now increased to 70 per month, the cabinet of Sarah Schlitz, Secretary of State for Gender Equality, confirmed on Monday.
“This increase is due to the deconfinement, people going out again without restrictive hours, the start of the new academic year, but also the liberation of women’s voices,” Schlitz’s spokesperson Oliviero Aseglio told The Brussels Times.
He added that the CPVS, which offers medical and legal care as well as psychological support to sexual violence victims, has also gained more widespread notoriety in Belgium following the revelation of sexual violence that occurred in bars in the student district of Ixelles.
Last week, accounts were shared on social media of women being allegedly drugged and assaulted in an Ixelles bar by a bartender who had later been transferred to another establishment managed by the same owner. Police have since launched an investigation into those claims.
Although Schlitz said the incidents at the two bars “lit the fuse” of a problem and phenomena that were “already widespread in our society,” she stressed these occurrences, as well as the increase in figures of sexual violence victims, have highlighted the need for change.
Aseglio confirmed that in light of these figures, an emergency meeting will be held between Schlitz, the Home Affairs Ministers Annelies Verlinden and the Minister of Justice, Vincent Van Quickenborne on Wednesday.
They will discuss the information they have on the situation according to their competencies and will bring forward any structural and sustainable solutions to “reduce and repress this type of violence as quickly as possible.”
The CPVS, of which there are currently three in Belgium, with another seven expected to open soon, will play a role in this. Meanwhile, magistrates have been trained to take better account of victims of sexual violence during trials, while the police will also be trained, according to Schlitz.
Aseglio stressed that the problem of sexual violence is not specific to the Commune of Ixelles, but that Schlitz will meet with the municipality’s mayor, Christos Doulkeridis, on Thursday, in light of the incidents at local bars.