Again, data was collected and the scale made tangible: After several abuse scandals in recent years, the Belgian Bishops' Conference published a 400-page report on the subject Tuesday.
Hundreds of victims of sexual abuse "have finally had the courage to talk about it in recent years," said Brussels Cardinal Jozef De Kesel at the launch. Above all, he said, it's about acknowledging the damage to victims, their helplessness in the face of the perpetrator, the silence to which they have been condemned, and the damage to their personal development.
Sexual abuse a crime
The report was prepared by the Interdiocesan Commission for the Protection of Children and Adolescents, led by Manu Keirse, professor emeritus of psychology at the Catholic University of Leuven. In the preface he writes, "Sexual abuse or assaultive behavior is not a disease, it is an offense, an abuse of power."
According to the report, since 2010, a total of 1 came forward.054 abuse victims at the mediation center and the ten contact centers of the church in Belgium. Of the 426 cases in the contact centers, 92 percent date back more than 28 years. 73 percent of victims were between the ages of 10 and 18 at the time of the assaults. Three out of four victims were male (76 percent). Most assaults occurred at school (43 percent) or parish (28 percent). Overall, 74 percent of cases were reported in Flanders and 19 percent in Wallonia.
"Trust is a permanent job"
The Dignity Foundation was founded to pay compensation to victims whose crimes are time-barred. The conciliation body and the foundation together paid 4.58 million euros in compensation between 2012 and 2017. For this purpose, the assaults were divided into four categories, for each of which the victims received between 2.500 and 25.000 euros in compensation.
Cardinal De Kesel will attend the Vatican summit on abuse next week (21. to 24. February). De Kesel said he hopes the deliberations there will lead to a "coherent policy for the entire Catholic Church". He and the other Belgian bishops and religious superiors do not see the topic in Belgium closed with the report. "Trust is a permanent job," is their last sentence under the report.