Czech police chief sorry for saying women “very often” make up rape claims

Martin Vondrášek

The head of the Czech police, Martin Vondrášek, has apologised after saying in an interview that women “very often” make up claims of sexual assault. However, advocacy groups says the force needs to do far more to reassure women.    

On Monday the news site Aktuálně.cz carried a video interview in its Spotlight series with Czech Police President Martin Vondrášek.

Among other issues, the discussion focused on the force’s treatment of victims of sexual violence.

Mr. Vondrášek said his officers aimed to behave sensitively and avoid secondary victimisation. Then he made the following comments.

“The whole time I’ve been sitting here I’ve been wondering if I should say this… I guess I should, and I hope it won’t be taken out of context. But very often – really very often – women’s reports of sexual violence are made up. Very often… It’s happened to me in my work at least twice – two cases of fictitious rape.”

Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková | Photo: Šárka Ševčíková,  Czech Radio

Mr. Vondrášek soon came under criticism from women’s rights groups and others.

The minister of the interior, Vít Rakušan, said the police chief’s words had been unfortunate, while the government’s human rights commissioner, Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, said more trust in the police was needed to boost victims’ willingness to come forward.

Karolína Olive Křížová of the anti-sexual violence group Konsent says Mr. Vondrášek’s words only make it harder for women to report such crimes.

Karolína Křížová | Photo: HateFree Culture

“I think he’s sending the message that the police doesn’t trust victims, or that if you report sexualized violence you are likely to encounter disbelief or distrust. And that you will have to prove yourself, and prove things over and over again, and that you will be looked at as if you were making things up.

“That’s a very difficult position to be in when you’ve already experienced violence against yourself that can be very difficult to talk about.

“The result of that is that there’s very high latency of rape and sexualised violence, meaning that people don’t report these things very often, especially in the Czech Republic, where only about five percent of rapes get reported to the police.”

After already trying to downplay the matter, Police President Vondrášek on Wednesday apologised for his statements.

Illustrative photo: Rosy,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

Karolína Olive Křížová welcomes this move – but says the force take further steps to build trust.

“Of course it’s the right thing to do, to apologise, but more needs to be done and the police need to do their best long-term, not just because of this unfortunate statement, or harmful, statement that was said, but in general.

“I think it is the police’s job to actively support victims and to actively speak out about how they will support victims. There are so many things they can say: We believe victims; we support you; we train our officers to be sensitive.

“I think it’s up to them to actively try to make it better.”