Belgian government will double support for sexual assault victims by 2023
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Belgian government will double support for sexual assault victims by 2023

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The federal government will increase its investment in care for victims of sexual violence by doubling its funding and tripling the number of care centres, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and State Secretary Sarah Schlitz announced on Monday.

Marking International Women’s Day, the government said it would be funding the sector with €17.8 million by 2023, compared with €8.5 million last year, and would increase the number of Care Centres after Sexual Violence from three to ten.

“Too many girls and women in our country are victims of sexual violence. It is high time to take sexual violence seriously. By investing in more care centres, we provide better support to victims,” said De Croo during a visit to a centre at Ghent University Hospital.

These centres, which work on a multidisciplinary level so victims only have to tell their story once, are able to offer care to victims, help them with trace research, and in some cases help with filing a criminal report.

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Since the openings of three centres in October 2017, a total of 3,473 victims of sexual violence have already reported for help. The average age of the victims is 25 years, whilst almost three in ten (28%) are minors.

In 2021, three additional care centres for this purpose will open in Antwerp, Charleroi and Leuven, with another four care centres expected to be added next year.

“Sexual violence is one of the worst violations of women’s rights. The care centres do a crucial job in providing shelter for victims and provide the essential link to justice. The more victims file complaints, the more perpetrators can be punished,” said Schlitz, State Secretary for Equal Opportunities.

De Croo highlighted that this increased support system includes supporting victims on a legal level, saying: “It must also be clear to perpetrators: we no longer tolerate this. That is why the fight against sexual violence is an absolute top priority for the judiciary.”

Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times