Zuhal Demir, federal secretary of state for equal opportunities, has called for a centre for the reception of the victims of sexual violence in every province in the country, following the success of the three already in existence. Demir’s call comes a year after she set up three such centres, in Ghent, Liege and Brussels. Since then, the centres have dealt with almost 1,000 victims, who are offered help including psychological counselling, forensic examination and advice on bringing a criminal complaint. The Brussels centre at the St-Pierre hospital received 462 visitors, Ghent 248 and Liege 220.
“For the pilot year, 600 victims were expected, based on the number of complaints registered by police and hospitals in previous years,” Demit explained. “In fact the number reached nearly 1,000. There is a clear need for more, similar centres.”
Police took 3,400 complaints of rape in 2017, which means the three centres saw fewer than one-third of all cases. 90% of victims are women, while 29% are under the age of 18, the youngest only 11 years old. 63% of visitors to the centres are rape victims, with 4% victim of an attempted rape. More than two-thirds made a police complaint, 27% as a result of advice received from the centres. Six out of ten visitors undergo a forensic medical examination, the results of which are kept on record for a year.
“The care centres for sexual violence are a response to the urgent need to give better support to victims,” Demir said. “Not only physically and psychologically, but also by laying down the basis for better judicial follow-up after offences of sexual violence. I want to go for a national roll-out of the system, whereby at least one will come to each province. That will require a budget, and I intend to go to the council of ministers in the new year for their support.”
Funding for the three existing centres, meanwhile, is guaranteed until the end of 2019.