Shocking verdict highlights treatment of rape victims in Czechia

Lucie Hrdá

Many Czechs have been shocked by a case in which a man got only a suspended sentence for raping his minor stepdaughter – after a court expert said the violations, which went on for two years, had not greatly impacted her. Following the verdict, the victim repeatedly attempted suicide. I discussed the case with Lucie Hrdá, a lawyer and women’s rights campaigner.

Photo: AJEL,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

“We should rethink mandatory training for judges in victimology and the psychology of victims, and to do mandatory training… not only mandatory, it should also be something that they need to do before they can ask for a promotion.

“And I also expect Czech society to call for [ratification of] the Istanbul Convention. Because we really need and this is something that could help us and prevent other decisions like this.”

In this case a court expert said that this minor was not affected by these multiple rapes. Who are these experts? Are they qualified to do that job?

“They have to be qualified, because they have to have a degree in psychology or psychiatry.

“The problem is that we don’t pay them big sums at all, so only elderly people are willing to do it. Because young people are going to private hospitals or they have their own practices – you don’t really earn a lot of money by being an expert. This is part of the problem.

“The other problem is that the Czech Republic is not supporting enough future psychologists and psychiatrists, especially for children; we have 119 psychiatrists for children in the Czech Republic, with 11 million people.

“This is not something that we can change quickly, but I think we should have started five years ago.”

Obviously this is one case. But still, do you think it says something about Czech attitudes to rape?

“I cofounded three years ago an NGO called Bez trestu, or No Penalty in English. This NGO targets these decisions, and we have a lot of decisions that are almost the same.

“There are hundreds of rapes with suspended sentences. And what we are trying to show to the Czech Republic is that intimate violence is not treated in the courts as it should be. Because the penalties are sometimes very low – more than 52 percent of rape cases end in suspended sentences.

Lucie Hrdá | Photo: AK Hrdá

“But the problem is not with the penalties, the problem is the victimological myths. Decisions are based on things that are not true. This is not about scientific evidence from victimology, psychology, sociology.

“I think this is the problem – and it’s always about education, of judges, police officers, state prosecutors and psychologists and psychiatrists. Because victimology is not part of the education of psychologists and psychiatrists in the Czech Republic.”