Every victim of sexual violence can come to the new centre. “We specifically concentrate on sexual violence, not general domestic violence. In addition we will initially focus on victims of acute violence, but victims of older offences are obviously also welcome”, says doctor Joke Wuestenbergs, temporary medical coordinator of the post sexual violence care centre in UZ Leuven. Doctor Wuestenbergs has also been involved in the start-up of the existing centres.
The centre provides a total care package for victims. "The victims are first seen by forensic nurses. They provide forensic, medical as well as first line psychological care. Specialised psychological help is provided by psychologists affiliated with the centre. The police is also involved. If they want to, victims can file a complaint in the centre. The police will come to the centre to take a statement. We will provide follow-up of the victims after the first report, we will contact them at certain times to see how they are doing, they can continue to see a psychologist in the centre and if necessary we can refer them to other channels”, doctor Wuestenbergs says.
A centre for every victim
The objective is to make sure that every victim of sexual violence can turn to the care centres. The capacity of the centre can expand in step with the number of victims. At the moment, the UZ Leuven emergency room is already equipped for the first care of sexual violence victims. “But these are only victims that want to file a complaint with the police”, says doctor Wuestenbergs. “With the new centre, we want to help everyone, regardless whether they file a complaint or not.”
Opening in 2021
The post sexual care centre will open at the end of 2021. The coming year will be spent investing in furnishing the location, hiring and training staff and the coordination with the three other important partners, the Leuven public prosecutor, the Leuven police and the city of Leuven.
The city of Leuven looks forward to the opening of the care centre. “The past couple of years we have set up strong partnerships for domestic and sexual violence together with the police, CAW East Brabant and the Leuven public prosecutor's office. The chain approach is an important part of that collaboration”, says Leuven alderman for Equal Rights Lies Corneillie. “The arrival of this care centre will only reinforce the activities. In the coming months we wil further coordinate with UZ Leuven about the centre's operation.”
Post sexual violence care centres in Belgium
Since 2017 there has been a post sexual violence care centre for each of the three parts of the country, namely in Ghent, Brussels and Liège. The care centres were set up as a result of the European Council Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, which outlines that every country has to set up such centres. The three existing centre were started as a test case. It has become clear that they do a good job and and therefore the decision was taken to open three more new centres in 2021: in Leuven, Antwerp and Charleroi. In 2022 another four additional centres will open, thus providing nearly every district with a post sexual violence centre.