“You are responsible. You can do something about it.” This is the message of a Hungarian police anti-rape crime prevention campaign aimed at students.
In a public safety video produced by police in Baranya County and premiered on November 21, young women are shown drinking, wearing revealing clothing and making out with young men, with one woman being beaten and abused at the end of each clip. The video has drawn criticism from women’s groups in Hungary and international media attention.
On November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the police in Vas County issued its own public safety statement saying that flirting by young women could “elicit violence.”
As shocking and victim-blaming as these campaigns are, the attitudes that underlie them don’t surprise me. They are consistent with findings of a 2013 Human Rights Watch report on domestic violence in Hungary.
During my research for that report, women victims of domestic violence in Hungary complained to me about hostile and negligent police behaviour, including incidents where police would blame the women for the abuse they were subjected to by their partners. Women told me that when they reached out to the police for protection against an abusive partner the standard response was that “unless blood flows” there was nothing police could do. These women lost confidence in the willingness of police to help them.
Since the report was published, the Hungarian government has signed the Council of Europe Convention on the Preventing and Combating Violence against Women (although it has yet to ratify it). And the police have published training materials on domestic violence for students at police colleges.
But these videos show that a lot more work is needed to change attitudes within the police, and to give women who experience violence the confidence to come forward and seek help.
Each year, the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women is the start of a 16-day global campaign to raise awareness of violence against women. If the police in Hungary are serious about helping protect women from violence, they should use the next two weeks to make clear to the public that perpetrators, not victims, are responsible for it, and they will hold those abusers and attackers to account.