A child is sexually abused when he or she is forced or persuaded to take part in sexual acts, with or without physical contact. This can also happen online. For example: touching, kissing, sexual intercourse, forcing the child to watch pornography, using vulgar language or showing the genitals.
Sometimes the child does not know or understand that he or she is being abused.
The person abusing the child can be an adult or a person under 18 years of age.
In Belgium, sexual acts with a person younger than 16 are always a forbidden by law, even if he/she agreed. 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:
- victim is an adult: 5 to 10 years’ imprisonment;
- victim is between 10 and 16 years of age: 15 to 20 years’ imprisonment;
- victim is younger than 10 years of age: 20 to 30 years’ imprisonment.
Producing, showing, distributing or selling child pornography can be punished with 5 to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to € 10,000.
If you witness child abuse or suspect that a child is being abused, you can:
- go to a Confidential CAN Centre (Vertrouwenscentrum Kindermishandeling);
- call the free helpline 1712;
- go to a family doctor;
- file a complaint at a police station, even if you are not related to the child.