"Ever happened, never heard": Flanders launches campaign against sexual abuse

The Flemish government has launched an awareness campaign for victims who have suffered violence or sexual abuse in the past. According to Justice minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA), these victims should be able to find help at the Acknowledgement and Mediation Committee of the Flemish government.

The recognition and mediation committee has been created to offer guidance, a listening ear and recognition to victims of abuse that took place at least ten years ago. The committee can also support them in confronting their perpetrator after all these years.

Low numbers

So far, the committee still remains unknown to many victims. It has received 67 reports since its start. In 2020 and 2021, there were 11 reports each year. This year, there are also 11 reports ​ registered at the moment.

Research has shown that only one in ten victims of sexual violence report it to the police. That's why the Flemish government is launching the "Ever happened, never heard" campaign, accompanied by advertisements in newspapers and on social media, posters and leaflets. The campaign title is "Ooit gebeurd, nooit gehoord" in Dutch.

Federal actions

Belgium's Federal Government has also prioritised bringing its criminal code into the 21st century by radically changing the way sexual violence is addressed. Now online sexual harassment, such as sending unwanted explicit photos, will be punished more severely.

By reforming its criminal code earlier this year, Belgium updated the law, dated back to 1867, to include online harassment, meaning that online offences – including harassment, sending unwanted explicit photos or doxxing – will now have the same penalties as offline harassment.

Previously, a perpetrator would have to send several unwanted photographs before a public prosecutor could step in. Now, someone sending even one unwanted picture already risks a three-year prison sentence. It can be raised to five years if the perpetrator knew the victim, and even to 20 years if the victim is a minor.



#FlandersNewsService | © BELGA PHOTO (TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)


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