What is sexual violence?
Sexual violence is an unwanted sexual act or activity. An act or activity is sexual violence when:
- it is not done with consent: at least one of the partners did not agree to engage in the activity and/or;
- there is coercion: one of the partners is forced or feels under pressure and/or;
- the parties are not equals: one partner has more power or there is a significant difference in age when minors are involved. Similarly, there is no equality if one of the partners is not in a position to consent. This includes if a person is asleep or strongly under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Some forms of sexual violence are:
- sexual harassment;
- violation of integrity or indecent assault and rape;
- honour-based violence;
- female genital mutilation;
- forced prostitution;
- forced marriage;
- distributing sexual images without consent;
The person who commits sexual violence is most often a person known to the victim or a trusted person such as a family member, partner or friend. It can also be a complete stranger.
Sexual violence is punishable in Belgium. There are never mitigating circumstances. This means that nothing will be accepted by the judge as an excuse for sexual violence. The behaviour of the victim, how the person is dressed and what the person says or does can never be an excuse for sexual violence. Sexual violence within a relationship or marriage is also punishable.