Step 1: Describe the situation

When completing the report, be as precise as possible regarding the identity of the perpetrator, the victim, the date and the place (if possible, send us the geolocation coordinates). 

If it does not put you or the child at risk, you can send us a photo that could help identify the alleged perpetrator, the victim, or the place more precisely (for example, a number plate, a photo of the neighbourhood,…) However, it is not certain that this evidence can be used in court. 

As quickly as possible after witnessing the suspicious situation so that action can be taken if the child is immediate danger. In addition, your memories will still be very fresh. If the police receives a report of a worrying situation several months after the fact, it will be extremely difficult to gather evidence.  

It may still be relevant to report. Indeed, it is important not to hesitate to report any situation which presents a potentially criminal character, i.e a situation displaying an act prohibited and/or punishable in Belgium. 

For example, you are in a restaurant, and hear a group of people talking about having already paid an underage girl to have sex – even if you do not know the identity of the people, this is a discussion about a reprehensible act.

Although the information may seem insufficient or incomplete to you, it may help the police to open a case. If there already is a report similar to yours (same type of profile) or if additional information come up with another report, the police may be able to cross-check the information. For instance, if several reports mention the same hotel or the same city, the local authorities will be informed and can act accordingly. As ECPAT is an international network, we can also inform colleagues in the concerned country that potential situations of sexual abuse have been reported to us for a particular location.

You should always listen to your instincts. However, be careful not to confuse 1) being sure of what you heard/seen and 2) being sure that an act has been committed. 

For example, you are in a restaurant and hear a group of people talking about having paid an underage girl to have sex: 

1) If you are not sure about what you heard, be careful not to risk reporting on the basis of very unreliable information. If a friend confirms they heard the same thing, the information you heard is probably reliable, and you can report. 

2) On the other hand, if you are sure of what you heard but you are not certain that the act was actually committed, you should report anyway. It is up to the police to check whether the act has actually taken place.

If your testimony prove to be false but your intention was to protect a child and not to harm anyone, you will not be prosecuted. That being said, note that false testimonies, i.e testimonies that are intentionally created or based on distorted or made-up facts are severely punished under Belgian law.

Here are some examples but we also advise you to always trust your instincts! 

  • An adult touches a child in an inappropriate manner at the pool, at the beach, in a restaurant, bar or nightclub…
  • An adult isolates himself with a child in a hotel room or a (private) apartment.
  • A child is dressed very provocatively or inappropriately for his or her age.
  • A child dances (half) naked for people.
  • A person offers sexual activities with a minor.
  • A person seeks sexual services from a minor.
  • A hotel or organization tolerates the sexual abuse of children within its own facility, structure or through a subcontracting company.
  • An adult tells about their sexual experience with a child.
  • An adult seems to be taking several pictures of children, especially at the beach or at the swimming pool.
  • An adult shows sexually explicit content to a child.

The list goes on!

Because witnesses are often the only people who can report child sexual abuses happening abroad. Indeed, victims will rarely report for many reasons (fear of reprisals, lack of trust in the police, need to earn money to help their family etc.) Yet, the Belgian law allows to prosecute any person found on Belgian territory that is suspected of having committed sexual abuse on children abroad. If there are no reports, there won’t be any prosecution and the offenders will continue to enjoy impunity and harm more children.  

Yes, a child is any person under the age of 18, as stated in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The main characteristic of the concept of child sexual exploitation is the underlying notion of “reward” (money, gifts, food, promises of a better future…). This remuneration is given to the child or the intermediaries. The sexual exploitation of children can take various forms (prostitution, trafficking, child abuse material). This turns children into sexual goods and objects. 

Belgium Law includes a number of provisions to prosecute and punish the various forms of sexual exploitation of children, including procuring (arts. 379, 308 et seq. of the Belgian Criminal Code), online sexual predation (art 377 quater, art 433 bis), production and dissemination of child pornography (art. 383 bis) and trafficking (art. 433 quinquies). The Belgian Law also condemns practices that can lead to sexual exploitation of children such as genital mutilation (Article 409), indecent assault (Article 372) and rape (Article 375).

For more information on semantics, see the Terminology Guidelines.

There is no standard profile of abusers. Abusers can be of any gender, age, sexual orientation, profession, economic background, etc. They are not only tourists, but they can be all types of travellers (businessmen/women, expats, humanitarian staff, etc.).

The vast majority of abusers are not paedophiles. In fact, most abusers become so only because of the circumstances, and not because they premeditated it. 

Thus, it is even more important to pay attention to signs of sexual abuse, as abusers are often people who wouldn’t have acted if they didn’t benefited from a strong sense of impunity, a desire for an “exotic” experience, easy access to children or teenagers, cultural relativism (“it is tolerated by their culture”).

Every child, girl or boy, is vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Factors that increase this vulnerability include poverty, war, natural disasters, ethnicity, societal acceptance, harmful traditions and customs, domestic violence, new technologies, consumer society, inadequate laws and corruption. Children living in the street, orphans, children with HIV, migrants and disabled children are also highly vulnerable.

All countries! Even if there are ‘hotspots”, no country is spared from the sexual exploitation of children. Easter and Southern Europe are now attracting more and more abusers.