Prominent psychiatrist set to receive Czech state award accused of sexually abusing patients

Jan Cimický

Police have launched a criminal investigation into one of the country’s most prominent psychiatrists. Dr Jan Cimický – due to receive a state distinction for helping advance the field of psychiatry in the Czech Republic – stands accused of sexual assault by former patients, among others.

The first woman to come forward with an accusation against Dr Cimický was the actress and singer Jana Fabiánová. She decided to do so after learning he was among those whom President Miloš Zeman planned to award the Medal of Merit, a Czech state honour.

“A sexual predator who has been hiding behind a medical degree for decades”, she said of the prominent psychiatrist, “should not receive an award for merit in our country.”

That public accusation encouraged other alleged victims to come forward with their own stories of sexual harassment or assault by the psychiatrist.

Some allegedly occurred in the 1980s and 1990s, when Dr Cimický worked at the Bohnice Psychiatric Hospital in Prague as a department head. One patient said he threatened to apply electroshocks if she did not submit to his sexual advances – or spoke about them.

This did not come as a surprise to Dr Zdeněk Bašný, who led Bohnice from 1990 until 2005, who told Czech Television that he sacked Dr Cimický in 1996 following similar accusations.

“I learned of it from relatives of people who had been in contact with Dr Cimický. They questioned whether his methods were standard in therapy. I told them they absolutely were not.

“I then spoke to Dr Cimický, who denied everything. But because there were similar accounts by different victims, I found them credible.”

Zdeněk Bašný | Photo: Czech Television

Dr Bašný said he did not contact the police at the time because none of the psychiatrist’s alleged victims was willing, or in some cases able due to their mental health, to press charges.

Under Czech law, non-consensual sex is a crime only if proven to have occurred under the threat or use of violence, a legal definition of rape that has discouraged many victims from seeking justice.

Lucie Hrdá, a lawyer specialising in cases of sexual and domestic violence, has been contacted by 25 alleged victims of Dr Cimický.

None want their names made public, she says, in part because victims of sexual assault by prominent figures often are accused of making false claims.

“When it comes to ‘open secrets’ – and Dr. Cimický has been written about several times in this context – obviously, open secrets exist only when society largely tolerates the actions.

“Furthermore, many will accuse victims who speak out – and we can see this in the case of [former MP and alleged sexual predator] Dominik Feri – of seeking attention or trying to damage someone’s reputation.

“In the Czech Republic, a victim will rather feel shame in coming forward. It is certainly not a way to find fame.”

Meanwhile, in the light of the police investigation, outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on Wednesday wrote to President Miloš Zeman, asking him to refrain from awarding the Medal of Merit to Dr. Cimický.

The day before, the Czech head of state – who has been in hospital now for a month – said through his press department that his position had not changed; he is waiting to see how the police investigation proceeds.