Piloting sexual assault care centres in Belgium : who do they reach and what care is offered?

Auteurs & affiliatie

Saar Baert, Christine Gilles, Sara Van Belle, Iva Bicanic, Kristien Roelens, Ines Keygnaert


Background : Sexual assault (SA) is highly prevalent in Belgium. In order to mitigate the negative consequences for victims of acute SA, Sexual Assault Care Centres (SACCs) were piloted from October 2017 to October 2018 in three Belgian hospitals. SACCs offer medical and psychological care, forensic examination and the possibility to report to the police at the SACC. Objective : Aiming to improve SACC services, we quantitatively assessed the number and characteristics of victims attending the SACC, the SA they experienced, and the care they received over 12 months upon admission. Method: Data on victims presenting at the SACC were routinely collected in electronic patient files by the SACC personnel between 25 October 2017 and 31 October 2019. These data were analysed in IBM SPSS Statistics 25. Results: Within the first year 931 victims attended the SACCs. Mean age was 24.5 years (SD = 12.8), and one-third were under 18. The majority were female (90.5%) and 63.1% presented for rape. About one-third of the victims were considered vulnerable due to previous SA (35.6%), prior psychiatric consultation (38.7%) or disability (8.5%). The assailant was known to the victim in 59.2% of the cases. Of all SACC presentations, 35.2% self-referred to the SACC while 40.9% were referred by the police. Two out of three victims attended the SACC within 72 h post-assault. Respectively 74.7% of victims received medical care, 60.6% a forensic examination, 50.2% psychological care, and 68.7% reported to the police. Conclusion: Despite the absence of promotion campaigns, the SACCs received a high number of victims during the pilot year. Use of acute and follow-up services was high, although new approaches to offer more accessible psychological support should be explored. The big proportion of vulnerable victims warrants careful monitoring and adaptation of care pathways.

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