Study: Many Czechs still believe rape victims are ‘partly responsible’

At least two-fifths of Czechs believe that victims of rape are partly responsible for the crime, for example because of the way they dress or behave, suggests a new survey commissioned by human rights watchdog Amnesty International. The good news is that the number of Czechs who hold this view has been on the decline in recent years. I discussed the outcome of the survey with Amnesty’s campaigns and advocacy manager Irena Hůlová:

“Our survey shows that people still think that in certain cases, rape victims are co-responsible for what happed to them. They think that when the victim was flirting with the perpetrator, or was drunk or was walking home alone, that means that in some cases they are co-responsible for the act of rape.

“That is obviously not true and we always say that the victim is never responsible for what happened to them. It is only the perpetrator.”

Nevertheless, the number of Czechs who hold this view has actually declined compared to previous years, hasn’t it?

Irena Hůlová | Photo: Twitter of Irena Hůlová

“Yes, it has. In 2015, it was 63 percent who believed the myth that victims are sometimes responsible. In 2018 it was 58 percent and this year, when we conducted the survey, it was just over 40 percent.

“It shows that our campaign and campaigns by other organisations and the fact that the public is talking more about sexual violence is working and that people are more aware of the problem now.”

So do you think the view is changing because the problem gets more attention in the media? Or is it also a generational thing?

“I think it will be both, but it’s mostly the media in the recent years. I think especially in the last couple of years with some high profile cases of people being accused of rape and some small campaigns trying to educate the public, the media obviously started paying attention to the topic. It really shows that people know more about it now.”

Amnesty International along with other organizations has been calling for a redefinition of rape in the Czech legal system. Why is this change so important?

“Yes, this is absolutely crucial. We have been campaigning together with an organisation called Konsent to change the legal definition. Currently for rape to be defined as rape there has to be a show of violence or a threat of violence.

“But we now that most cases rape happen between people who know each other and in up to 80 percent of cases the victim froze and was unable to defend himself or himself.

“In those cases the law then often doesn’t qualify that as rape because it is not based around consent. So whether you said no or yes is not the main thing which the prosecutors and investigators look for. What they look for are signs of violence, which are often not there.”

What other changes are needed to take place in Czech society to change the public view on rape?

“I think we need more debate about what consent is and how to have sex in an environment where everyone feels safe and is aware of the other person consenting.

“But we also need more education across police, judges, prosecutors and lawyers, people who deal with victims of rape, so that they are aware of the often cited myths and they can treat the victim as they deserve to be treated.”