The role and needs of general practitioners in counselling victims of domestic and sexual violence in primary care in Belgium

Sexual and intrafamilial violence are a major public health problem worldwide. The first representative study on sexual violence in Belgium led by Prof Dr Ines Keygnaert showed that 64% of the inhabitants in Belgium between 16 and 69 years old have already been victim of some form of sexual violence in their lifetime: this concerns 81% of women and 48% of men in this age group (Keygnaert et al, 2021). In a recent survey on relationships, stress and aggression in the first 12 months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Belgium, also led by Prof Dr Ines Keygnaert, 29.8% of respondents reported having been victim of domestic violence at least once during the first and second wave of the measures during the COVID-19 pandemic (Keygnaert et al, 2021b). This is in line with previous research on women's and men's experiences of psychological, physical and sexual violence (Pieters et al, 2010).

The National Action Plan to Combat all Forms of Gender-based Violence advocates holistic care for victims of intrafamilial and sexual violence. General practitioners play a crucial role in this both in the short and long term. Nevertheless, general practitioners have limited knowledge, experience and skills in dealing with intrafamilial and sexual violence. First, this project wanted to map out at a national level, what support general practitioners consider necessary in tackling domestic and sexual violence in primary care. We also wanted to evaluate a first pilot version of a practical guideline with a view to optimization and implementation. In second time, with these obtained results, a training tailored to the needs of primary care providers will be developed as well as the guideline will be finalized. This with a view to a more accessible, transparent, diversity-sensitive, person-centred and holistic healthcare landscape.  

This mapping into the role and needs of primary care physicians in addressing sexual and domestic violence took place from November 11, 2021 to May 11, 2022 and was commissioned by the Federal Public Health Service. 

Funding agencies

Belgiƫ: Federale Overheidsdienst Volksgezondheid - Federal Public Health Service


Prof. Dr. Ines Keygnaert (coordinator), Anke Vandenberghe and Lisa Fomenko


ICRH Ghent University


November 11, 2021 - May 11, 2022

Project status

Project closed

Team members

Ms. Elizaveta Fomenko
Ms. Ines Keygnaert




Interpersonal violence
Sexual health and wellbeing