The yet-to-be-judged sentencing of former MP Dominik Feri to three years in prison for rape is a clear signal that Czech society is changing. It was about time.
The change towards the straightening of basic human rights would not have happened if it were not for several factors. And especially of people, women, the seemingly weakest. At the same time, everyone should be grateful for the change. Women and men. It concerns everyone.
Women don’t have to worry about it
In 2017, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: “If all the women who have ever been sexually abused or harassed wrote ‘Me too’ on their social network, maybe people would realize the seriousness of the problem.” Followed by reactions and Me Too statuses from thousands of women around the world, including famous and well-known personalities. The Me Too movement has helped shed light on the issue. We suddenly realized that we don’t have to hide it, endure it, ignore it or mask it. In front of the world, family, friends, but also in front of yourself.
Accusations of hypersensitivity
At that moment, we tried to imagine a world where it would be normal not to see women as latent providers of sexual services or tools to satisfy men in power. Even us here in the Czech Republic. However, such a world will not arise by itself, someone has to create it. This is terribly difficult – in a country where post-communist thinking still rules and the ethos of the nineties even more so. It takes tremendous strength on the part of victims of sexual predators. Telling what happened to you first to someone close, or often someone relatively close, is often the worst thing to say to those closest to you. Go to the police or talk openly about it. Appear in public, suffer until the court. Usually you will not be met with care and acceptance, but with questioning or accusations out of hypersensitivity. Living with you being that voice. Forever.
2 out of 5 women have experienced sexual violence
According to research, at least two out of five women have experienced sexual violence, basically we live in a society that is permeated and contaminated by it, but without reflecting on it. They are not anonymous numbers, they are real people. When I take the tram with my child to kindergarten in the morning, twelve of the thirty women in the car have experienced violence connected to someone else’s desire to have sex with them and the belief that this desire can be claimed only because someone has a penis and someone has a vagina.
The aggressor is usually known
When I go to a birthday party with an extended family of ten women, I can be sure that four of them have experienced it. At work, I meet about twenty female colleagues every day, so it is quite likely that at least eight of them had to deal with harassment, coercion or violence from men. In addition, research shows that in the overwhelming majority the predator is a man whom the women knew or know. Acquaintance from school, colleague from work, neighbor, relative, closest. Not an anonymous evil aggressor attacking from the dark, but someone who could seem nice in meetings, who was charismatic when you first met, or who you usually talk to and always seemed completely normal to you. Moreover, someone we haven’t seen for the last time, who can actually reappear at any time, anywhere, who is present in our lives.
And the women are silent
Many victims then logically respond with denial: when you meet women on the tram, at a family party or at work, they don’t talk about how their experience as a victim affects their actions every day. Other women don’t talk about it, so I won’t either. Which leads to it happening again and again because these men get away with it, and again and again it is not talked about. The vicious circle is broken by all those women who don’t keep quiet, even though it’s probably one of the hardest things they’ve ever done in their life.
The judgment handed down against Dominik Feri is a turning point and marks a huge step forward for our society. It could have happened because of the changes in thinking that started the acceptance of Me Too as something essential, but it also predetermines a lot. A big thank you goes to the victims, who may have been afraid to speak out, but decided to overcome their fear. An equally big thank you goes to the journalists who stood behind them and decided to overcome their fear and publish such a big case, at the center of which is an influential man. Although both groups have been dealing with intimidation and personal attacks for the whole two and a half years, or maybe just mistrust in the neighborhood, is it even worth it.
Efforts to change the law
The third pillar of this change are the non-profit organizations that strive to change the rape law, all the women of Generation K who no longer want to live in the world as we knew it – a world where sex does not require consent. Two out of five of us have a Dominik Feri in our lives. He wasn’t necessarily violent, arrogant, vulgar, manipulative or even worse at intimidating. But we have it, and as long as we have to keep silent, we won’t get rid of it, we won’t be completely free.