Overall, perception of sexual assault among Czech people is improving. Photo credit: Freepik.

Czech Republic, Dec 8 (BD) –  According to a new opinion poll, the attitudes of Czech citizens towards the issue of sexual assault are changing for the better in many respects. Nevertheless, a number of widespread and common prejudices that have long circulated around the topic continue to be seen among the public, according to the findings of a survey conducted by the Focus research agency for the Czech branch of Amnesty International.

At least 40% of the Czech population still considers the victims of sexual assault to be complicit in the attack, such as by dressing suggestively, flirting, being drunk, being in a deserted place, or not saying a clear “no”. Although this figure seems high, it is a significant drop from 63% in 2015, and 58% in 2018 (though due to methodological differences in data collection in 2022, these comparisons are only indicative).

“In all cases, the blame for rape lies solely with the perpetrator,” said Irena Hůlová, who coordinates the Chce to Souhlas (“Consent is Needed”) campaign on behalf of Amnesty Czech Republic. “Any shifting of blame from perpetrators to survivors and victims deepens their traumatisation, justifies the actions of perpetrators, and makes light of such a serious act, which often has a similar impact on a person as if someone had tried to murder them.” 

One of the other questions in the survey asked who the public thought committed sexual assaults most often. Although the largest percentage of people (37%) answered that they believe the most common perpetrator of rape is a stranger, this figure has also been dropping over the long term. In the 2015 survey, 55% of people said this was the case, and in 2018, 44% of respondents gave this answer.

“According to statistics, the vast majority of rapes do not happen late at night after a disco in a secluded part of a park with an unknown perpetrator,” added Hůlová. “90% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows well—a friend, partner, spouse, classmate, colleague, or relative. The greatest threat, paradoxically, lurks where we would expect safety—for example, at home or with someone we know.” 

According to research, approximately 12,000 rapes are committed in the Czech Republic every year, which means an average of 34 rapes per day. However, only around 5% of these are reported to the police. “One in ten women and one in thirty men in the Czech Republic experience rape. This proves that this is indeed a society-wide problem and that a large number of people have experienced non-consensual sexual intercourse,” says Amnesty’s Czech director, Linda Sokačová.

The research also found that 69% of Czech citizens consider non-consensual sex to be unjustifiable. However, this figure differs between men and women. Sex without consent is considered unjustifiable by 77% of women and 61% of men. The results of the opinion poll were presented today by Amnesty representatives in the Chamber of Deputies to members of the Subcommittee on Domestic and Sexual Violence. 

“If we want to live in a society where sexual violence is not tolerated, we need to act,” said Sokačová. “One of the concrete steps that legislators should immediately approve is the correction of the criminal definition of rape, because the current one is not sufficient.” 

The Czech Criminal Code defines rape as coercion or abuse of defenselessness rather than the absence of consent. However, this is not sufficient, according to NGOs and international bodies, because it does not include a large proportion of cases which did not involve direct physical violence. According to statistics, up to 70% of rape victims freeze and are unable to defend themselves due to extreme shock, stress, and fear. Currently, 13 European countries already have a definition of rape based on consent. An online petition demanding the correction of the definition in the Czech Republic has already been signed by almost 16,000 people.

Rape is one of the most serious and damaging crimes. It often has long-term negative health and social consequences. It affects not only the victim, but also those around them. Most victims deal with the trauma for a long time; a large proportion even for a lifetime. Long-term consequences affect up to 90% of survivors.

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