Indecent assault and rape
Indecent assault is any forced sexual act without penetration and is described in the criminal code as any violation of sexual integrity. The victim does not give consent to this act. For example: unwanted touching, caressing or kissing, forcing a person to undress or show his/her genitals.
Indecent assault can happen without physical violence or threats. For instance: if the victim does not resist and lets it happen because he/she is afraid.
In Belgium, indecent assault is forbidden by law.
The punishment for indecent assault is up to 20 years’ imprisonment, depending on:
- the gravity of the assault;
- whether there was physical violence or threats;
- the age of the victim.
Indecent assault is now described as a violation of sexual integrity and was also previously referred to as a violation of decency .
Rape is sexual penetration (oral, vaginal or anal) without consent. Forcing someone to penetrate someone else is also rape. The penetration can happen with part of the body or an object. Penetration does not need to be full penetration and can be partial penetration. Rape can happen without physical violence or threats. For instance: if the victim does not resist and lets it happen because he/she is afraid. Rape can also take place within a relationship or marriage.
There are never mitigating circumstances. This means that nothing will be accepted by the judge as an excuse for rape. For example: the behaviour of the victim, how the person is dressed and what the person says or does are never an excuse for rape.
Rape can attract a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
It is important not to wait to seek help. Maybe a friend or somebody you trust can help you.
Your family doctor can treat you and write a report for the police.
You can also go to the police immediately to file a complaint. They are obliged to respect your privacy. If you are afraid of further violence, the police can protect you. The police are obliged to treat you in a respectful and correct way.
If you go to the police within 72 hours, they can arrange a medical examination to find evidence from the perpetrator. A doctor or nurse will look for semen and blood, but also for other traces under your nails, in your hair and on your clothes. The examination takes 1.5 to 2 hours. The police will send the samples to a lab for testing.
You can also have this medical examination at a Sexual Violence Care Centre (Zorgcentrum na seksueel geweld). You can also go there for medical and psychological help and to file a complaint, even if 72 hours have passed from the occurrence. You can find all of the services in 1 place at a Sexual Violence Care Centre.
Each CAW (Centre for General Well-being) has a special service you can go to called Slachtofferhulp (victim care). They can go with you to the police, a doctor or a court. When you go to a CAW, you do not have to give your name. You can get help and advice anonymously and free of charge.
According to the law , if you are without a residence permit, the police have to treat you with the same respect as other victims. However, the police could arrest you because of your residence status. Therefore, it is best to be accompanied by a professional from a CAW or from another social organisation or to go to a Sexual Violence Care Centre first. .
If you find yourself in an emergency situation and are afraid of further violence, you can go to a shelter.
Help for perpetrators
If you feel you have been violent in a relationship or you feel there is a risk that you will become violent towards another person, you can seek help from a CAW. Therapy can help you to talk about your feelings and behaviour and to prevent you from becoming violent (again).