Hospitals in East Flanders are in favour of sexual violence reference centres

ICRH conducted a survey into the attitudes of hospitals in East Flanders towards the organisation of care for victims of sexual violence. The study, entitled ‘Towards a holistic approach to sexual violence: are reference centres a feasible and desirable model?, was financed by the Province of East Flanders. It revealed that a majority of the hospitals is in favour of a system of ‘reference centres’, in which integrated medical, psycho-social, legal and police assistance is centralized within specialized reference centres. This system appears to be more convenient for both care takers and victims.

Reference centres for sexual violence do not yet exist in Belgium, though the government has expressed its commitment to move into this direction on the occasion of the signing of the Istanbul Convention (the convention of the Council of Europe aimed at preventing and fighting domestic violence and violence against women).

Key findings

  • The respondents tend to underestimate the prevalence of sexual violence, especially when it comes to violence against young and male victims.
  • Hospitals in East-Flanders are frequently confronted with victims of sexual violence. One third of the surveyed hospitals see at least one victim per week. A hospital policy on dealing with these victims is often lacking.
  • Most hospitals have the capacity to perform the necessary medical-technical actions for adults, but there are too few gynaecologists who can do this for children.
  • Only a small minority of the hospitals can offer the necessary psycho-social and forensic care.

More information
Ines Keyngaert,