Two high-profile sexual assault cases indicate a major shift in Czech society

This week saw a former MP sentenced to three years in prison for rape; today alleged victims of a Czech psychiastrist accused of rape take the stand. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 23.04.2024 11:47:00 (updated on 23.04.2024) Reading time: 2 minutes

Two high-profile sexual assault trials taking place in the Czech Republic this week are shedding light on issues of sexual violence and consent in Czech society.

On Monday, the Prague Metropolitan Court upheld the three-year prison sentence handed down to former member of parliament (MP) Dominik Feri for raping two girls and attempting to rape another. The Prague 3 District Court sentenced Feri to jail in November 2023, rejecting Feri’s claims that all his encounters with the victims were consensual.

Tuesday sees the beginning of another prominent case involving a Czech psychiatrist, Jan Cimický, who faces charges of multiple rapes and dozens of extortion cases against female patients and potential interns. The trial is ongoing, and the court is set to hear testimony from the alleged victims today.

Powerful men coerced vulnerable victims

Both cases involve prominent men who used their position to exploit young, vulnerable victims. In the Feri case, Judge Libor Vávra said that while the violence used against them may not have been "vigorous," the former MP exploited his victims through coercion. “The combination of circumstances created by Feri led to the fact that the victim's position was very weakened at that moment,” the judge ruled.

Feri has continued to question the trustworthiness of his accusers. Prosecutors, in turn, have accused Feri of shifting blame to the victims. Feri, who pleads innocent, may file a petition for an appellate review with the Supreme Court.

Cimický, who stands accused of 35 cases of extortion and four rapes, faces a three-year prison sentence and a ban on practicing medicine. In January, at the beginning of the trial, Judge Petr Novák also cited the vulnerable position of the respected medical professional's victims. Cimický continues to deny all of the allegations against him.

New definition of rape brings hope of social shift

Coming on the heels of these high-profile cases and a wave of activism surrounding Czechia's own #MeToo movement, Czech lawmakers recently voted to redefine the legal meaning of rape. Previously, rape required proof of force or threat of violence. Now rape encompasses all non-consensual sexual acts, regardless of physical force used.

Commentators say that the changing laws, in addition to the Feri and Cimický trials, reflect a broader shift in societal attitudes, one that understands sexual harassment and violence can take many forms beyond an overt physical assault. Such high-visibility cases have also empowered victims of sexual harassment or rape to come forward.

"With its verdict, the court vindicated not only the victims of the former MP but also those women who would otherwise have been afraid to speak up," writes Markéta Boubínová for Deník N of the Feri case.

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