Mouvement pour l'Égalité entre les Femmes et les Hommes


An estimate of the figures for forced suicide in Belgium

Suicides by gender in Belgium

There are around 2,000 suicides per year in Belgium. Suicide represents the 7th cause of death for the total Belgian population, all causes combined.

Men commit suicide approximately 3 times more than women. However, the trend is reversed when considering suicide attempts or suicidal ideation1. The reasons for these higher suicide rates among men appear to be primarily societal. Men appear to exhibit more impulsive behavior compared to women. They would also resort more to violent means to end their lives such as firearms, hanging or even explosives while women would favor more drug ingestion. In addition, women would be more protected from emotional and social isolation due to the fact that they are, still today, more involved in the family sphere. Finally, it appears that men have more difficulty asking for help when they need it and also use medical and support services less2.

Belgium is the European country most affected by the phenomenon of suicides among women with a standardized rate of 9.51 per 100,0003.

1 Suicide Prevention Center, “Numbers”, available on, 2016.

2 Santé Wallonie, “Suicides and suicide attempts”, available on, 2008, p. 5.

3 Eurostat ‐ Causes of death ‐ standardised death rate by NUTS 2 region of residence


The link between violence within the couple and suicide.

Suicide risk is predicted by intimate partner violence according to several longitudinal studies1. Indeed, there is a strong correlation between violence between partners and suicidal ideation2, through depression3. 76% of victims in the Citizen Feminist survey4 had suicidal thoughts, this would be more than 7 times the rate found among non-victims5. According to studies6, 20% to 29% of victims of intimate partner violence had attempted suicide at least once. The rate would be 5 to 8 times higher than the rate of the general population7.

Sylvia Walby’s (University of Leeds – UK) 2004 study « The cost of domestic violence » reported that there is evidence of a strong association between domestic violence and attempted suicide. In the United Kingdom, 1,497 deaths of women by suicide were recorded in 2000, and after investigation 188 were directly attributable to VSC, or 12.5%.

The 2008 study by Psytel (France) carried out as part of a European DAPHNE project « Estimation of mortality from domestic violence in Europe » takes into account, for France, data from the ENVEFF survey providing information on the rate suicide attempts among women who have suffered serious violence and among those who have suffered very serious violence. The study concludes that there is a suicide rate of 13% directly linked to VSC.

The most recent specific study on the subject is that of the University of Kentucky (USA). This Department of Epidemiology study (Sabrina Brown and Jacqueline Seals), published in the January 2019 Journal Injury and Violence, aimed to determine the percentage of suicides in Kentucky between 2005 and 2015 where intimate partner issues, including of violence, have been identified. Kentucky state data from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) was used for this purpose. The NVDRS records information from death certificates and investigative reports from medical examiners, law enforcement, toxicology, and medico‐legal reports. The researchers took over the files of all suicides during the period, for a total of 7,008 suicides. They thus identified 1,327 cases (26% of documented cases) of suicides where “problems within the couple” (separation, divorce, distrust, jealousy, discord) and/or violence within the couple were mentioned. The study distinguishes between “problems within the couple” and “violence within the couple”, the second being one of the possible categories of the first. 575 cases of problems within the couple out of 1,327 (or 43%) also included at least one element of violence within the couple (physical, sexual, psychological). However, the results provided in the article are not sufficiently gendered to differentiate these results according to the sex of the deceased. The overall result, useful for our estimation, is therefore the following: in 11% of the suicides studied (43% of 26%), intimate partner violence contributed to the suicide.

The recent publication of the first results concerning psychological violence from the Violence and Gender Relations: Contexts and Consequences of Violence Suffered by Women and Men survey – so-called Virage survey – sheds new light. According to this survey, we arrive at a rate of 11.5% of suicide attempts attributable to frequent psychological violence within the couple among all TS for women aged 20 to 69.

1 Devries, K.. M., Mak, J. Y., Bacchus, L. J., Child, J. C., Falder, G., Petzold, M., Astbury, J., & Watts, C. H. (2013). Intimate Partner Violence and Incident Depressive Symptoms and Suicide Attempts: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies. Retrieved from

2 Pico‐Alfonso, M. A., Garcia‐Linares, M. I., Celda‐Navarro, N., Blasco‐Ros, C., Echeburua, E., & Martinez, M. (2006). The Impact of Physical, Psychological, and Sexual Intimate Male Partner Violence on Women’s Mental Health: Depressive Symptoms, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, State Anxiety, and Suicide. Retrieved from ; Chan, K. L., Straus, M. A., Brownridge, D. A., Tiwari, A., & Leung, W. C. (2008). Prevalence of dating partner violence and suicidal ideation among male and female university students worldwide. Retrieved from

3 Chan et al. (2018).

4 Citoyenne Féministe. (2019). Violences conjugales : dépression et envie suicidaire. Retrieved from‐cf‐violencesconjugales‐et‐envie‐suicidaire.pdf

5 Afifi, et al., 2009, cités par Cavanaugh, C. E., Messing, J. T., Del‐Colle, M., O’Sullivan, C., & Campbell, J.C. (2011). Prevalence and Correlates of Suicidal Behavior among Adult Female Victims of Intimate Partner Violence. Retrieved from

6 Chan et al. (2018), Cavanaugh et al. (2011) ; Citoyenne Féministe (2019).

7 Morvant, C., Lebas, J., & Chauvin, P. (2002). Les conséquences des violences conjugales sur la santé des femmes et leur prise en charge médecine de premier recours. Retrieved from‐of‐domestic‐violence‐onwomens‐health‐and‐their‐management‐in‐primary‐health‐care.pdf ; Hirigoyen, M.‐F. (2009). De la peur à la soumission. Retrieved from‐empan‐2009‐1‐page‐24.htm


Estimated number of forced suicides

We cannot, of course, have direct ex post access to the reasons which led a human being to commit suicide. Unfortunately, it is too late to have his testimony. “Psychological autopsies” which are by definition “a post‐mortem investigative procedure aimed at establishing and evaluating the suicide risk factors present at the time of death, with the aim of determining with the highest degree of certainty the mechanism having leads to death” are still too rare to be used in a quantitative approach. On the other hand, we can know better, although always imperfectly, the reasons which led women to have TS, this is what we saw in the previous chapter. We know well that the reasons for suicide are multifactorial, however, epidemiological studies tell us that the strongest predictive factor for suicide is having already suffered a ST. There is therefore a very powerful link between suicide and ST, the same causes producing the same effects but more extreme. This is how, in the absence of another more scientifically assured method, we are led to formulate the hypothesis of the same distribution of the causes of TS in the causes of suicides. This scientifically “for lack of anything better” reason, associated with epidemiological studies on the causes of TS and the findings made in the observations of cases conducted by experts in matters of violence within couples, leads us to validate the hypothesis of A percentage of suicides attributable to violence within the couple is at least around 11%. This figure only applies to countries in the Europe and America regions (as defined by the WHO) due to the few studies on which it is based (United States, United Kingdom, France).

We therefore start from the examination of the number of female suicides by age groups for the EU27 MS provided by Eurostat for 2017 which is the most recent year with complete mortality figures published (Causes of death ‐ deaths by country of residence and occurrence) for these countries.

By applying our percentage of 11% to the 471 female suicides, we obtain the figure of 52 forced suicides in Belgium for the year 2017.

The consequences on the number of feminicides in Belgium in 2017

In Belgium, there are on average around forty femicides per year, but there are no official records from the public authorities yet. This is a press census carried out by associations via the “Stop Féminicide” blog: . The Stop Féminicide blog was created and updated by the Feminist Platform against Violence Against Women. This platform brings together organizations independent of governments and political parties who wish to reflect and act against violence against women in Belgium, through a feminist reading and approach. This blog lists crimes, puts faces to the numbers in order to put pressure on public authorities.

Thus, for 2017, we have the following figures concerning violent deaths: Female victims within the couple (feminicides): 43

By adding to these data our estimate of the number of SF for Belgium in 2017, we obtain a total of 95 deaths of female victims of SCV for 2017.

It is therefore almost one woman victim every 4 days of violence within the couple in Belgium in 2017 and not one every 10 days, as is usually reported if we consider feminicides only.

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