Church should contribute to fund for victims of sexual abuse, say Flemish MPs

A Flemish parliamentary committee investigating the handling of sexual abuse in the church and other institutions presented 101 recommendations on Friday. They include a fund to give all victims of sexual violence access to psychological care, to which the church should contribute.

"It warms my political heart to see that there can be good cooperation between majority and opposition on such an important and sensitive issue," said committee chair Hannelore Goeman.

The special committee was set up in the wake of Godvergeten (Godforsaken), a documentary series on sexual abuse in the Church that caused widespread indignation. The committee looked specifically at what Flanders can do for victims.

The committee is calling for the creation of a fund for victims of sexual violence to which the Church should make a financial contribution. Together with the federal level, it will also examine whether perpetrators of sexual crimes can be required to make a financial contribution.

Years of therapy

"Psychological help is still expensive, so victims do not always get the help they need," Goeman said. "It often involves years of therapy. The financial contribution made so far by the Church is perceived as very limited, especially compared to the lifelong price paid by the victims."

MPs also called for the creation of a single reception point where victims can go with all requests for help, as they do not always know where to turn. In order to provide such help quickly, the waiting lists for psychological help must also be eliminated in cooperation with the federal government.

Church should apologise

Katrien Schryvers of the Christian democratic party CD&V said the Church should also issue a new apology. "A new moment of public apology to the victims is appropriate, together with the Church, schools, care facilities and other organisations where sexual violence took place," she said.

The committee also called for memorials to be erected at sites where abuse took place. Commemorative plaques of known perpetrators of sexual violence should be removed or supplemented with an account of the violence and an apology to the victims.



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