Parliament apologises to victims of childhood sexual abuse
The Flemish Parliament’s speaker made a public apology yesterday to the victims of widespread sexual abuse in the region’s educational and religious institutions
“This moment is very important”
The declaration was signed by Peumans and the three MPs who initiated it – Else De Wachter (SP.A), Katrien Schryvers (CD&V) and Lies Jans (N-VA). It acknowledged that “prominent people in youth and educational institutions were guilty of improper conduct and the use of unjustified violence.” The apology also noted that many of the victims were not believed, which added to the trauma they suffered.
The prominent Flemish child psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens praised the gesture as it “sent out an important message” and “helped victims come to terms with the abuse”. It doesn’t bring an end to their suffering, he said, “but it will lessen the pain”.
The initiative was steered through parliament by Flemish welfare minister Jo Vandeurzen, who set up a committee in 2013 to look into the mounting allegations of sexual abuse in religious and educational institutions in Belgium over several decades. “One of the recommendations was to organise a public moment where apologies would be made,” he said. “This moment is very important. It demonstrates our commitment to the future: We acknowledge that things happened that should not have happened, and we declare that we as a society will be more alert in future.”
Photo, from left: Else De Wachter, speaker Jan Peumans, Katrien Schryvers, welfare minister Jo Vandeurzen and Lies Jans present their official apology to the public
Photo by Belga
Government of Flanders
million people live in the Flemish Region.
provinces constitute the Flemish Region: West Flanders, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, Antwerp and Limburg.
number of years for which the Flemish Parliament is elected. Its elections coincide with those of the European Parliament.