Sexual child abuse
An adult may never take part in sexual acts (physical or online) with a child younger than 16 years of age. If this happens, it is always considered to be sexual abuse. This can include: touching, kissing, sexual intercourse, forcing the child to watch pornography , using vulgar language, showing the genitals or distributing photos or films of the naked child.
Sometimes the child does not know or understand that he or she is being abused.
Children and young people are also not permitted to have sexual contact with one another without consent.
In Belgium, a minor under the age of 16 is not permitted to consent to a sexual act as this is the age of consent (= the legal age at which sexual acts are permitted). There is an exception. Someone can consent to sexual intercourse from the age of 14 on 2 conditions:
- The partner should not be more than 3 years older.
- The partner should not be in a position of trust or power over the young person. Sexual intercourse with a person younger than 14 is always considered rape, even if he/she agreed to it.
Indecent assault or rape of a child is punished more severely than when the victim is an adult. The prison sentence can be as much as 30 years.
Producing, showing, distributing or selling child pornography or images of abuse of a child can be punished with up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to € 10,000.
If you witness child sexual abuse or suspect that a child is being sexually abused, you can:
- go to a Confidential CAN Centre (Vertrouwenscentrum Kindermishandeling);
- call the free helpline 1712;
- go to your family doctor;
- go to the Centre for General Well-being (CAW);
- file a complaint with the police.
If you know that a child is being sexually abused, you must always seek help. You may be prosecuted if you do not. If you are concerned about your own behaviour towards children, you should contact Stop it Now!