Sexual violence is rampant in Belgium, shows new study

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Sexual violence is rampant in Belgium. In the first large-scale representative and gender- and age-sensitive study on sexual violence in Belgium, called "UN-MENAMAIS" '(Understanding the Mechanisms, Nature, Magnitude and Impact of Sexual Violence in Belgium), experts from Ghent University, the University of Liège, and the National Institute for Criminology and Criminalistics found that two third of the Belgian population experienced sexual violence during their life.

Sexual violence happens to people from all genders, sexual orientations and ethnic backgrounds…

In people between 16 and 69 years, 64% (81% females and 48% males) experienced sexual violence during their life. Two in five women and one in five men indicated to have been subjected to hands-on sexual violence (with physical contact between the assailant and the victim) with 5% of men and 16% of women indicating to have been raped.

80% of LGBTQIA+ persons were exposed to any type of sexual violence; 79% experienced hands-off sexual violence (e.g. sexual harassment, forms without physical contact between the assailant and the victim) and 42% hands-on sexual violence, of which 24% concerned (attempt to) rape.

For applicants of international protection residing in Belgium victimisation rises to over 84%, in 61% this happened in the last 12 months when they were already in Europe or Belgium.

Sexual violence was linked to adverse mental health outcomes such as depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicide attempts. Most victims had not sought for help so far. Only 7% looked for professional help and 4% reported their victimization to the police.

Almost 70% (N = 1951) of the doctors interviewed have seen at least one victim of sexual violence during their career, but the victims usually come forward after several years.

We are currently in a transitional phase in which different forensic models are being implemented.
Regardless of the forensic model, victims are systematically confronted with secondary victimisation (becoming a victim again because of the attitude or procedure of the police, the judiciary, doctors, etc.) due to the long judicial process about which they get little information.

… and ages. Older adults are also exposed to sexual violence.

Today, June 15th, is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD). Therefore, we want to draw specific attention to our study results on sexual violence in older adults.

In addition to 44% of participants of 70 years and older reporting they had been victimised in their life, one in 12 older adults of 70+ said they had been victimised in the past 12 months: 7% reported hands-off, 2.5% hands-on sexual violence and 0.6% (attempted) rape.

Women and men were equally victimised at this age. Older victims continue to cope with mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD and hazardous alcohol use, as a result of sexual violence earlier in live.

Less than half of the older victims had ever talked about their experience to someone in their social network, 6% sought professional help, and only 4% reported the violence to the police.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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