Was she walking alone through dark and isolated street late at night? Was she dressed provocatively? Was she drunk? Was she flirting? Is she known for having many sexual partners in the past? “Then she was asking for it”, thinks one third of Czech society.
Czech Amnesty International recently published a public opinion poll that uncovers the stereotypes, prejudice and lack of awareness around the topic of rape.
Alleged co-responsibility of women for rape in the aforementioned situations points attention in the wrong direction – instead of discussing the perverse behaviour of rapist, the victim is confronted with questions about whether it was her fault she was raped.
On the issue of rape it is common to find articles with recommendations how women could prevent rape. In these ’valuable’ pieces of advice we are told that women should not walk alone at night in dark places (such as parks, pedestrian underpasses etc.), should not dress provocatively and should carry pepper spray. This type of advice serves to illustrate the way we think about rape – in these articles the role of victim is at the centre and rapist is hidden somewhere in the background. Instead of articles focusing on unacceptable rapist’s behaviour and him being held accountable, we read about ’appropriate’ women’s behaviour and clothing style that would decrease likelihood of being raped. When will we start seeing articles written instead with titles such as ‘Advice for men how not to rape?’ instead of ’Advice on how women could prevent rape?’?
Do the attitudes of Czech society mean that a woman can not go out alone at night? And if she goes alone, she should not complain if she would be raped? And even if she has got a short skirt, was she really asking for rape? Don’t we live in a civilized society where men can control their sexual desire when seeing a woman having a short skirt?
On the one hand Czech society usually promotes sexist commercials with half-naked women as humorous. On the other hand raped women are asked whether they were not dressed provocatively. As a result part of responsibility lies on victims’ shoulders. It is therefore not surprising that women in most cases do not report rape since victims are not supported and are rather delegitimized and undermined by questions like What were you wearing?, How did you behave?
In current debate about refugee crisis Czech president Miloš Zeman asserts that young aggressive Muslim men will rape Czech women. Isn’t this the same man who in a TV debate during the pre-election campaign did not hesitate to say a joke about rape? The Czech Women’s Lobby called upon Miloš Zeman to publicly apologize for his statement about rape as ‘evolution advantage’ but he did not. And now he fights for victims of rape? Rather hypocritical approach, I would say.
The public opinion poll also shows distorted notions about rapists. Whereas in the Czech society prevails strong belief that most often rapists are persons who victims do not know, the opposite is true – approximately in 1 out of 5 cases are rapists strangers, most often rapists are persons who victims know. Surely there is a need for raising awareness through campaigns about rape that would disprove myths full of stereotypes and prejudice. What becomes crucial is emphasizing that NO always means NO! It might sound absurdly but it is still not taken as matter of course.
Finally it is worth noting that the Czech Republic has not still signed the European Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. The campaign Stop violence against women calls upon Czech government to adopt the Istanbul Convention.