What is a Sexual Assault Centre and who is it for?

A Sexual Assault Centre (SAC) is a service that is offered in a number of hospitals. In Antwerp in the UZA, in Brussels in UMC Sint-Pieter/CHU Saint-Pierre, in Charleroi in UMC Marie Curie, in Ghent in UZ Gent, in Leuven in UZ Leuven, in Liège in CHU Liège and in Roeselare in AZ Delta. Every victim of sexual violence is welcome, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In 2023, 3 new SAC will open in Arlon, Genk and Namur. 

Sexual Assault Centres for victims of sexual violence

At the Sexual Assault Centre, a victim can receive the following care:

  • Medical care: both medical care (examinations, care of wounds and injuries) and treatment of the physical, sexual or reproductive consequences 
  • Psychological care: first psychological care (by lending a listening ear and giving information about normal reactions after a shocking event and advice on how to cope) as well as further guidance from the SAC-psychologist.
  • Forensic examination: establishing injuries, investigating traces of the perpetrator, gathering evidence in case a victim wants to file a complaint
  • Filing a police complaint if desired, with the help of specially trained police vice inspectors 
  • Follow-up afterwards: medical follow-up for any medication or injuries, as well as psychological follow-up during the coping process.

It has been proven that victims who receive this type of comprehensive care after sexual violence have a greater chance of a lasting recovery, recover faster and are also less likely to be victimised again.

The World Health Organisation therefore prescribes that every victim should receive such holistic care as soon as possible after the violence.

In the Belgian Sexual Assault Centres, this care is provided by specially trained forensic nurses who work together with and are supported by specialists such as emergency doctors, gynaecologists, urologists, paediatricians, geriatricians, psychiatrists and specially trained psychologists. Family or friends who accompany a victim can also turn to the forensic nurse for initial support, information and advice.

When?

What the Sexual Assault Centres can do for you as a victim depends on how long ago the sexual violence took place:

  • If the sexual violence took place less than a week ago (and ideally within the last 72 hours), as a victim you can go directly to a Sexual Assault Centre, or call or email them, and immediately receive the necessary medical, forensic and psychological care. If you wish, you can file a complaint with police vice inspectors at the SAC itself.
  • If the sexual violence took place more than a week ago but less than one month ago, as a victim you can call or email to make an appointment. The Sexual Assault Centre will examine what is still possible in terms of medical and psychological care and forensic investigation at the SAC. To file a complaint, an appointment can be made with the police through the SAC.
  • If the sexual violence occurred more than one month ago, as a victim you can also call or email to make an appointment. During the appointment, the SAC team will determine which medical and psychological care is needed so that referrals can be made to the existing support and care services beyond the SAC. For complaints, an appointment can be made with the police through the SAC.

How can you reach a Sexual Assault Centre?

As a victim and support person, you can call or email a Sexual Assault Centre or go (with a victim) to a Sexual Assault Centre:

  • SAC Antwerp: 03/436 80 50, zsg@uza.be, Zorghotel Drie Eiken (+0), UZA Campus, Drie Eikenstraat 655, 2650 Edegem
  • SAC Leuven: 016 34 11 11, zsg@uzleuven.be, Herestraat 49, 3000 Leuven. www.uzleuven.be/zsg
  • SAC East-Flanders (Ghent): 09/332.80.80, zsg@uzgent.be, accessible via Entrance 47 at UZ Gent, C. Heymanslaan 10, 9000 Ghent, tram 4 (stop UZ), bus 5 (stop UZ)
  • SAC West-Flanders (Roeselare): 051/23 80 80, zsg@azdelta.be, AZ Delta, campus Rumbeke, Entrance East, Deltalaan 1, 8800 Roeselare
  • SAC Brussels: 02/535.45.42, CPVS@stpierre-bru.be, accessible via Rue Haute 320, 1000 Brussels, Metro 2 et 6: stop Porte de Hal, Tram 3 - 4 – 51: stop Porte de Hal, Bus: 27 – 48 : stop Saint-Pierre/Porte de Hal, Bus De Lijn and TEC: Saint-Gilles (Porte de Hal/Blaes)
  • SAC Charleroi: 071/92.41.00, CPVS@chu-charleroi.be, 100, Chaussée de Bruxelles, 6042 Lodelinsart; Metro : Marie Curie, Bus : 50 and 172
  • SAC Liège: 04/367.93.11, cpvs@chuliege.be, accessible via the emergency service of CHU Liège, Urgences des Bruyères, Rue de Gaillarmont 600, at 4032 Chênée, 4000 Liège

Important tips to preserve traces after sexual violence

  1. Come to a SAC as soon as possible after the assault. After 72 hours, the chance of finding traces during the forensic investigation decreases.
  2. Avoid washing or showering, even if this is the first thing you want to do.
  3. Try not to drink or rinse your mouth if there was oral contact.
  4. Try not to urinate and if you do, try to collect it in a jar and bring it to the SAC.
  5. Avoid physical contact with other people.
  6. Keep the clothes you were wearing during the assault or put them in paper bags and bring them to the SAC. Avoid plastic bags!
  7. If you have sheets on which there might be traces of the perpetrator (e.g. sperm), put them in a paper bag as well and bring them to the SAC.
  8. If you wiped yourself with paper or something else after the assault, or have put a sanitary towel in your underwear, put that in a paper bag as well and bring it to the SAC.
  9. If possible, bring a change of clothes and shoes: after the forensic examination, you can shower at the SAC and put on clean clothes. (If this doesn't work out, don’t worry; you can get a change of clothes at the SAC or someone can bring you clothes later).

Sexual Assault Centres for the victim's support circle

People close to the victim, such as family, partners or friends, can always email or call the SAC for tips or support.

If the SAC-psychologist decides, together with the victim, that it would be beneficial to start therapy, it is possible that you as a member of the victim’s support circle will be involved in this. You will also be given an explanation about which therapy will be started.

Also, at each SAC, information sessions are regularly given on how to deal with a victim of sexual violence as a partner, parent, child, family member or friend. To find out when these information sessions are held or to register for the information session, please contact the SAC directly.