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Information on reporting
Go to the “I Report” page and complete the form as thoroughly as possible.
STEP 1: DESCRIBE THE SITUATION
STEP 2: PROVIDE YOUR CONTACT DETAILS
STEP 3: SEND THE FORM
STEP 4: REQUEST A FOLLOW-UP
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.
Why is reporting important?
It may still be relevant to report. Even when you have little information, 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 child.
- A person seeks sexual services from a child.
- 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, Belgian law allows the prosecution of any person found on Belgian territory who is suspected of having committed sexual abuse against 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.
Reports and personal data
Your data remain confidential in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulations. Anonymous reports are kept in a secure database used only for statistical purposes.
Depending on the case, you may be contacted by ECPAT Belgium or by the Police to obtain additional information necessary to initiate an investigation.
Yes, you don’t have to provide you name to make a report.
However, if the Police initiates an investigation, it will be much easier to get more information if we can contact you again. During this investigation, you can always request that your identity and personal information remain confidential.
Your report will be sent to ECPAT Belgium and will be analysed by our team. If your report contains sufficient useable information about an offence against the legislation for the protection of children, we will forward it to the Police. If it does not contain enough information, we may contact you for further information. Your report will then be deleted from ECPAT Belgium’s files.
ECPAT Belgium is entitled to receive alerts, not to carry out investigations which fall under the competence of the Police. This reporting procedure is the result of a prior agreement with the Police concerning the processing of reports sent via the “I say STOP” website.
When you make a report, you have the possibility to select the tab “I wish to be kept informed”. You will be kept uptodate on the progress of the reported case, within the limits of the confidentiality of the investigation.
When you report, you will be asked to attest that you are not making a false report. If the sole purpose of your report is to protect a child, you cannot be prosecuted, even if your suspicions prove to be unfounded. This type of report can sometimes be used to highlight other illegal practices (for example if a person you thought was a child is actually over 18, but the situation is still a case of sexual exploitation).
In accordance with a collaboration agreement with the Police, ECPAT Belgium carefully analyses every report before forwarding them to the Police. However, note that if the report is forwarded to the Police and you have provided elements allowing the identification of the person (name, license plate) the police will issue a report form on this person. The Police will then carry out a thorough investigation to determine whether or not the person did commit an offence. Only when it is established that the person committed an offence will the offender be prosecuted and possibly arrested.
Child sexual exploitation
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. Eastern and Southern Europe are now attracting more and more abusers.