Rape at a freshman camp in Hungary

On August 30 an incoming freshman was raped at one of the many weekend camps organized by the student associations of ELTE. I have written several times about these students associations, or Hallgatói Önkormányzatok (HÖK). They were organized right after the regime change when they received powers unheard of at universities west of Hungary. In many ways they resemble the former KISZ, the communist youth organization, since they have a very large budget and some of their leaders are paid employees of the university. These associations can spend money with little supervision. They can also decide on such important matters as the allocation of dormitory rooms. Most important, they have a say in faculty appointments since they have a 25% representation on the university senates. Corruption is apparently rampant in these HÖKs. In addition, they are breeding grounds for future leaders of Jobbik. Unfortunately, university administrators either don’t have the guts, the power, or the will to reform and curtail these associations.

Among other things, these student associations are responsible for the organization of “freshmen camps” prior to the opening of the fall term. I guess the original idea was to give freshmen an opportunity to get to know each other as well as to meet savvy upperclassmen. A recent headline, however, described these camps as “szesz és szex” (alcohol and sex).

The scene of the crime was Fonyódliget at Lake Balaton where the freshmen of ELTE’s teachers’ college were supposed to get acquainted. It turned out that the organizers, leaders of the school’s HÖK, hired a 38-year-old photographer who they knew had raped someone else earlier and had in fact spent five years behind bars. The rapist first beat the freshman and then tried to strangle her, all the while taking at least 100 pictures of the act.

The picture was taken in 2012 on the same camp site where the rape occurred

This picture was taken in 2012 on the same camp site where the rape occurred

This time at least the university administrators acted immediately. They suspended the responsible HÖK leaders and promised a full investigation.

And this wasn’t the only problem the ELTE administration had to deal with, although it was by far the most serious. Reports also poured in about the law school’s freshman bash, although the activities there seemed to have been nothing new. For years the organizers have made the freshmen sing a particularly obscene ditty. Index found the text of the obscene song and published it. If you swear that you are over 18, you can have the pleasure of reading it.

It seems that a tragedy had to occur to prompt ELTE’s administration to act. They decided that from here on these freshman camps will be organized centrally and will take place under the university’s supervision. This should have been done much earlier.

While the news was full of the rape case, the three guys who shoot the breeze on Class FM’s Morning Show, a popular program, talked about the freshman camps in a rather light-hearted manner. They called the rape of the freshman “an unfortunate event,” chatted at length about the general licentious atmosphere of these camps, adding “let’s not be hypocritical, we know what’s going on there.” There was even some inappropriate reference to gay people. The media’s reaction was outrage and apologies followed. However, these three guys’ reaction at Class FM is not at all unique, even in media circles. There is a new television reporter at ATV who did not think that his fellow radio journalists said anything particularly objectionable. And a few days later when he was interviewing a representative of an association involved with sexual abuse and domestic violence, he first skirted the issue and, when he had to say something, he brought up violence against men as also being a problem. He added that the trouble is that “women don’t talk about the assaults.” Perhaps if they just talked more, these assaults could somehow be prevented.

Even the director of communications at ELTE, György Fábry, seemed ambivalent to me. Of course, he admitted that it was a terrible tragedy and there will be serious consequences. But he tried to minimize the atmosphere that prevails in these camps. In his conversation with Olga Kálmán he kept repeating that no one forced the participants to sing the obscene song and that, in fact, this year the song was not included in the repertoire. He kept saying that some of the stories are exaggerated. From an earlier conversation on Egyenes beszéd I gained the impression that he is a great defender of HÖK. Indeed, it turned out that he, as a student at ELTE’s faculty of arts, was one of the first HÖK leaders in the early 1990s. The faculty of arts’ HÖK has been solidly in the hands of Jobbik, whose leaders use these freshman camps to recruit members for the party. When probed about the Jobbik connection, Fábry defended the group and said that the problem was not as serious as the media made it out.

Although the commissioner in charge of education who works under the general ombudsman will be investigating freshman camps nationwide, the problem is not with the camps per se. The problem lies with the almost exclusively male composition of the HÖKs. At ELTE women make up 75% of the student body, yet they are barely represented in HÖKs. Ninety-four percent of the student body at the teachers’ college are women, one man heads the college’s HÖK. These fellows often use their prominence as organizers to intimidate freshmen women. Details of what’s going on right under the noses of the university administration are well described by a recent article in Index.  Of course, the problem is not restricted to rowdy university students letting off steam. What happens at these freshman camps is part and parcel of the Hungarian male attitude toward women.

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30 comments

  1. As Eva correctly wrote: “What happens at these freshman camps is part and parcel of the Hungarian male attitude toward women.” But the male attitude towards women is also in part formed by Hungary’s high powered phonographic industry. By 2005, 300 of the 1,200 pornographic films produced in Europe were of Hungarian origin. In 2008, the industry generated around € 636 million a year, making up around 0.5% of Hungary’s GDP. The government sanction of this part of the film industry also secured a much more legitimate standard for the industry than in many other countries.

    Katalin Vad, managed to cross over into mainstream stardom, and became an actress on the television soap opera Jóban rosszban, porn baron György Gattyán is probably the third most wealthy resident of Hungary, and the former Jobbik leader Zoltan Kabai (aka Zoltan Cowboy) who starred in 84 porn films between 1992 and 2009 all became mainstream. While the USA created the modern porn industry, Hungary after the transition from communism turned it into a legitimate industry. Because of the power of evangelical religion in the USA, it’s kept as a shadow industry.

    Gail Dines who has written extensively on the world wide porn industry and is a professor of sociology and women’s studies has said “We are now bringing up a generation of boys on cruel, violent porn and given what we know about how images affect people, this is going to have a profound influence on their sexuality, behavior and attitudes towards women.”

    So there may be more going on in Hungary than the tradition of male dominance within traditional Central European culture that leads to what happened at the camp. Probably the most stunning thing for me periodically visiting Hungary was seeing the massive increase in both legal authorized prostitution in Budapest and the unauthorized illegal call girl industry in the city over the years. Sex tourism is now a big part of F1 week. In many respects it sadly reminds me of Bangkok during the Vietnam War where we went for R and R (rest and recreation). R and R was in truth nothing but authorized drunken whoring by GI’s suffering from one form or another of PTSD.

    Orban has for all his Christian claims done nothing about the sex trade in Hungary which is driven by low wages, massively unemployed or underemployed youth, and the porn industry’s status as a legitimate industry.

  2. One of the most depressing articles I have read on HS.

    And it rings very true. I don’t know much about the porn and prostitution side, but it’s certainly hard to find a woman in Hungary with much good to say about feminism or equality of the sexes. Many (most?) actually seem to want to go back to the ‘old’ days, where the woman stayed at home with the kids and cooked (all day!), and the man did whatever men do when the woman is doing all the important stuff.

    It’s hard to believe this in Western Europe, but this actually seems to be one of the things that attracts women to Fidesz.

  3. Truly depressing.
    Meanwhile: NANE (organisation of women against domestic violence) and Labrisz (lesbian activists) are among the NGOs now harassed by the government for accepting foreign funding. And the new biology schoolbook teaches that there are gender differences in physical and intellectual abilities, boys being better at maths: http://444.hu/2014/09/12/az-uj-allami-biologia-tankonyv-szerint-a-fiuk-es-a-lanyok-bizonyos-szellemi-kepessegekben-kulonbozoek/ .
    And “feminism” continues to be a naughty word.

  4. HÖK is indeed a mostly Jobbik, secondarily a Fidesz power base. These guys represent the students only on paper, but in fact are a great tool for the university administration, they are totally coopted into the system.

    But mind you, nobody else cares about the students. There is no grass-roots student organization, group, club or anything like HÖK. Students don’t care, they are just like the rest of the population catatonic and as we have discussed it, no leftist party or group is active with students, only Jobbik.

    It is almost natural that if you want to go to a party, meet people, you will become a Jobbiknik (for life), as there is simply no other choice if you have no friends in town (which is true for out of town kids, who makes up a huge portion of the student body).

    The HÖK problem, of which this was only one side, is thus at least a problem of the left field, as the leftists completely abandoned the youth.

    No surprise, by now we know that the leftist are lazy and without any vision or plans, but it means the incumbent organization will naturally assume more and more power and its people will be entitled to do anything. The university will cover the HÖK up because people like Fabry et al directly depend on the support from HÖK.

  5. A dreadful story, and a sad state of affairs. Within the EU Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and France are also unfortunately famous for their violent student hazing ‘traditions’. 15 years ago the latter adopted a law banning bizutages: of course they didn’t disappear overnight, nevertheless the debate and the ensuing legislation certainly contributed to raise the awareness of students, parents, and education professionals. And obviously it made prosecuting violent acts much easier. Amidst Fidesz’ usual legislative frenzy, perhaps the Parliament could find the time for such things?

    Incidentally, I do not entirely agree with your statement that ‘what happens at these freshman camps is part and parcel of the Hungarian male attitude toward women’. In my uninformed opinion, what happens at these freshman camps is part and parcel of a society’s attitude toward masculinity, group violence and gender. Whereas in every domain, female students are indisputably bound to be the most likely victims, I’m pretty certain that some also become willing co-perpetrators, and that a number of male students are also victims of serious violence.

    In my view, in order to engage in the regression of such phenomena, one has to view them not in terms of direct conflicts (i.e.: ‘men vs women’) but in terms of collective practices meant to fabricate, through violence, a social hierarchy (i.e.: ‘stronger men’ > ‘weaker men’ / ‘stronger women’ > ‘weaker women’). The current ‘traditional values’ backlash, self-proclaimed ‘christian’, ‘family-oriented’ (often meaning complementarian, as Paul noticed) and ‘illiberal’, is hardly going to help challenging the pervasive belief in that order.

  6. Kmon,
    No comment on the actual sexual crime taking place?
    Are the *politics* of the matter more important for you; the fact that the majority of students don’t, as you allege, care about the rape of 18 year olds, makes it OK then? Your obvious admiration of the Fidesz/Jobbik machine sometimes makes me think you are more in sympathy with their aims and not just their methods

    My own observation of the situation of women in Hungary is tempered by the fact that I come from a society which is also far from excellent in that particular regard. Couple of differences though in the male/female dynamic

    The beating up of women, which it seems to me in Hungarian society is tolerated or either blamed on the dog or an errant door would not be tolerated where I come from. The partner of a woman who arrived to work on a Monday morning with a black eye would find himself in immediate trouble. It would probably be better for him that the police lock him up first before family or friends caught hold of him and pointed out the error of his ways. Rough justice perhaps but better than the scumbag being held up as a family role model in the local kocsma or church or Fidesz/Jobbik caucus. The fact that there are (*rumoured*) wife and child-beaters very close to Orban and the fact that the vast majority of the party and media don’t see it as a problem demonstrates the sickness at the heart of Hungary 2014.

    Secondly, whereas where I come from both boys and girls are pretty much left to their own devices to survive at a very young age, the typical Hungarian male is mollycoddled from birth- despite the pathetic peacock machismo, they are, as a rule, completely incapable of surviving without a female providing for their basic functions. In England, invariably the Magyar immigrant who survives the best is the female variety.

  7. Pre-election party propaganda survey from a toss-up district in Budapest.

    Ads in elevators:
    2014. March: Fidesz & Jobbik, no democratic opposition
    2014. September: the same

    Ads on electric poles:
    2014. March: none (banned by Fidesz)
    2014. September: only Fidesz

  8. Perhaps only in Hungary would it need to be said, but rape is a serious form of assault that involves physical injury in almost all cases and mental injury that can haunt the victim for the rest of her/his life. I’d like to think that the men who joked about it on television are not working there any more. That would be the least that a reputable television station could do. Not reputable? I see. I fear for the future of all young people in this country, which has become depraved and demoralized in this respect and many others. In ELTE’s case I suggest closing the institution for a week, during which all academic and security staff from the rector downwards should be required to attend a course on their responsibilities to young people and asked how they intend to meet them in future.

  9. D7 Democrat: ” the typical Hungarian male is mollycoddled from birth- despite the pathetic peacock machismo, they are, as a rule, completely incapable of surviving without a female providing for their basic functions.”

    Very true. My father was a perfect example but I thought that perhaps things have changed since. He was totally dependent on my mother who put out the clean underwear, shirt, and tie every morning for him, otherwise he most likely wouldn’t have even known where to find them. Also, he couldn’t have boiled an egg. Of course, never did any housework either because he was never asked to move a finger at home.

  10. @Sentrooppa-Santra. I wanted to say something about the case of the biology book but I couldn’t find the text. I will make another attempt because it is an important topic.

  11. D7 democrat:

    I sympathize with the rape victim, and I do have my somewhat similar observations about the pathetic machismo of most Hungarian men.

    Men it seems to me that are inherently weaker, especially in Hungary which fact is covered up by this faux-machismo, or simple violence, which is just the acting out of something these men cannot or don’t dare to formulate in words. Well over 90% of the homeless are men in Hungary and for a reason. Men tolerate failure (with respect to the expectations of the “big Other”, or more simply put of the society in general as existing in the heads of men) much less. In my experience men get much more easily offended, tend to keep scores, and more ready to throw a hissy fit (temper tantrum), they seem to have more issues.

    My point was about a grander narrative, however. While the rape was terrible, this vivid story should not blind us from more general problems lurking in the background: the inactivity of the youth, Jobbik’s (and Fidesz’) absolute lock on their ideological development and social lives and the deep interest of university administrators to keep every thing the same as before, especially now that these new government-sent chancellors will appear at the universities (and thus the support of HÖK will be the sign of ‘democratic’ support of such administrator.)

    In other words, the rape was only a symptom of much deeper, structural issues. It’s a bit like antisemitism, In contend that it is only a symptom of deeper issues, not the problem itself.

  12. @Kmon

    “In other words, the rape was only a symptom of much deeper, structural issues”

    Since the perpetrator was a repeat offender, the symptom is the following:
    lucky or well-connected criminals can avoid punishment for decades.

    Here is another example: repeat offender F…sz, starting with their 1993 real estate deal.

  13. Two different but interconnected issues, both of which deserve attention.
    First, the feminist point of view: the obvious counterargument of “yes, but…” (yes, but men also suffer; yes, but men are also treated badly, beaten up, even raped) should not be used to tone down feminist criticism. Gender inequality is not “merely a symptom”, it is an issue in itself.

    Second, I just had an interesting discussion with a Hungarian colleague about education and manners, motivated by the linguistic code of conduct recently published at the Károli university (http://www.kre.hu/nyelveszet/index.php/nyelvi-illemtan): how to address professors, how to formulate an e-mail etc. My colleague pointed out that in her view, today’s students fail to learn the basic rules of human interaction already at home and at school. They are insecure, they don’t know the rules nor understand what moral independence and responsibility mean. This makes them yearn for clearly formulated rules, leadership and a community which offers them a meaningful framework. And, sadly enough, it seems that no other organisation except Jobbik can offer them anything like that.

  14. In a lighter vein:

    Maybe the weakness of Hungarian men is the reason why so many Hungarian women fall for (or rather in love with …) foreigners? So that’s why I can call myself lucky …

    But back to the topic:

    It really is a shame that some people try to play this down! Of course we’ve heard this before (often in conservative circles, whether they be Christian, Muslim or what ever): It’s not so bad, any way she had it coming, she provoked by her clothes, by her behaviour etc …

    Just a few months ago there was this scandal in the USA when a “repugnant” politician claimed there was no need for abortion in a case of rape, something like “if it had been real rape, the woman’s body would have reacted – she wouldn’t have become pregnant …”

    Horrible!

  15. tappanch: I disagree. The guy was apparently sentenced legally in 1996 and was a suspect in 2004 (with an unknown outcome). Sexual offenses however are notoriously difficult to prove, unless there is hard evidence. Now there is and he will be duly punished. At the time of this particular rape, as far as I gathered he was apparently free. There is no legal way to restrict people’s freedom forever on account of past crimes. So I don’t see the issue of long-term avoidance of punishment here, it’s more about the corrupt nature of HÖK where people with such known backgrounds could still freely roam around in the HÖK public life.

  16. D7 Democrat: “The beating up of women, which it seems to me in Hungarian society is tolerated or either blamed on the dog or an errant door would not be tolerated where I come from.”

    I wonder if the Hungarian saying ” The money is best counted as the woman is best beaten” exists in any other language.

  17. wolfi: ‘Just a few months ago there was this scandal in the USA when a “repugnant” politician claimed there was no need for abortion in a case of rape, something like “if it had been real rape, the woman’s body would have reacted – she wouldn’t have become pregnant …” ‘

    This happened in the 2012 elections. The politician’s name was Todd Akin and his remark cost him the end of his political career. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Todd_Akin )

  18. Thanks for the info, gdfxx!

    The horrible thing is that quite a few people think like Akin – even if they don’t say it loud. In a way it’s fascinating how similar the views of some conservative Christians are to their arch enemies, the conservative Muslims …

    Our local newspaper just brought a report on a witch trial in the neighbouring mainly Catholic city of Rottenburg/Neckar (the seat of a bishop too) – ok, that was 300 years ago, but some people still have similar views.

    Btw when was the last witch burned in Hungary? Anybody got info there?

  19. Absolutely OT: very insightful interview with Michael Pettis on global/economic issues.

    blog.mpettis.com/2014/09/not-with-a-bank-but-a-whimper/

  20. Thanks, Xavier! I don’t claim to have read it all (or even understood it totally …) but one sentence at the end struck me:

    “Generally speaking I would argue that in most countries we need to boost the wealth of median households at the expense either of the state or of the economic elite, but in the case of the latter I also recognize that we have to do so carefully.”

    The growing discrepancy between the rich, super-rich on one side and the poor and middle class on the other also worries me a lot!

  21. Could be hard to decide if the machismo or the hypocrisy bigger on the top.

    As we learned:

    http://index.hu/belfold/2014/09/12/orban_elte/

    – allegedly “someone” from the government phoned the rector of ELTE expressing the dismay of Orbán over of that particular obscene song (linked in the article) while the Great Man himself still have on his FB this video:

    – where he – among others – singing of the Hussars of Fehérvár who “…mated with lots of little girls…” (…sok kislányt meghágtak)

    The word literally means “mounted” – as in riding – but as it used in this context it means a “polite” reference to – animal intercourse…

    Great thing to have some “National Culture” with all the values of the “Christian Europe”, isn’t it?

  22. Not quite OT. A very thoughtful interview about the Israeli politics/public life/student life moving toward the right. Lots of parallels with Hungary unfortunately, and great arguments for the right wingers: if Israel can do it, why can’t Fidesz and Jobbik? It reminds me that Orban has definitely not finished its campaign against the NGOs, and he will not give his campaign up, the Norwegians will have to continue to be tough. I hope they are not quitters, they will need all the resolve they can muster. Orban sees the Russian and the Israeli anti-NGO laws and just knows that he will win.

    http://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/to-zion-and-back/

  23. Wolfi

    “Maybe the weakness of Hungarian men is the reason why so many Hungarian women fall for (or rather in love with …) foreigners? So that’s why I can call myself lucky …”

    😀 A Hungarian friend of mine was really surprised when she found out that my husband does his own laundry (puts the clothes in the machine, presses a button, then throws them on the rack). She asked me: “How did you manage to achieve that??”
    I have seen Hungarian men tell each other online: “Don’t you EVER start doing any housework, especially not in the kitchen. Because as soon as you do, your woman will stop respecting you and will stop looking up to you as a man, because you do such pussy work.”
    Interesting. I will respect a man much more if they do some cleaning and do the washing up.

    About the original post: awful. Please remember that not only was this girl raped, he had beaten her up and had tried to strangle her. But still, I had a dose of the Hungarian social media, which was full of “it was her fault, she must have been wearing a mini skirt”, “she shouldn’t have gone to that camp”, “the pencil doesn’t get hard by itself, she must have flirted with him and licked him [!!] and then changed her mind, what did she expect??” Some by women.

    If you tell them that rape is a crime whatever the victim is wearing, and a no is a no whenever one says it – then you find out you are a harsh feminist bitch, who wants to destroy the natural and traditional differences between the sexes.

  24. Sentrooppa Santra

    “They are insecure, they don’t know the rules nor understand what moral independence and responsibility mean. This makes them yearn for clearly formulated rules, leadership and a community which offers them a meaningful framework. ”

    I think this can be true. The old communist system collapsed and a whole generation haven’t managed to work out what’s what in the new world. Apart from open-minded people who speak foreign languages very well and have travelled or lived abroad, the majority have seen no working model of western mentality. To them, a liberal-tolerant society means a mess, everybody doing what they want, men wearing pink knickers, drugs, chaos, no discipline etc., and it certainly hasn’t brought economic prosperity to Hungary, so what’s the point then…
    This is also the reason why people yearn for the past: the conservative Christian mentality and lifestyle of the 30s and 40s middle classes (or as they imagine it) is the only succesful model they consider worth following.

  25. Yes, coastal California has the largest porn industry in the world … and a growing number of its members are feminists, making non-misogynist content and advocating feminism. There is still misogyny, because, well … you can’t make heterosexual porn for still-mostly-conservative buyers without someone managing to sneak misogyny in; but coastal California has the porn it has because it’s one of the least bigoted regions in the world (still with work to do), and Hungary has the one it has because its population never ceased to be grossly sexist (like Russia’s, also with a growing, and toxic (more than California’s, if you will), porn industry); by the way, porn actresses from many other parts of the United States fled those parts because those parts were conservative and coastal California isn’t – they are treated more like actual people there, problems of porn and all.

    Regarding the actual topic: I wish Hungarians rebelled against the government they have, but that doesn’t seem forthcoming. Which of its neighbors will have to topple it when it gets intolerable just being next to Hungary?

  26. @Sentrooppa Santra

    “Truly depressing.
    Meanwhile: NANE (organisation of women against domestic violence) and Labrisz (lesbian activists) are among the NGOs now harassed by the government for accepting foreign funding. And the new biology schoolbook teaches that there are gender differences in physical and intellectual abilities, boys being better at maths: http://444.hu/2014/09/12/az-uj-allami-biologia-tankonyv-szerint-a-fiuk-es-a-lanyok-bizonyos-szellemi-kepessegekben-kulonbozoek/ .
    And “feminism” continues to be a naughty word”

    The truly depressing is that intellectual abilities and learning issues are simply not biology. The author of the book is just a bad professional.

    While it is absolutely true that men and women are different when it comes to biology, learning abilities and learning have nothing to do with biology and as such should not be discussed in this book. Although cognitive sciences build on biology but equally they build on social sciences.

  27. Khan: you are absolutely right, of course. Intellectual abilities and learning skills have nothing to do with biological sex. The gender differences shown in a plethora of studies are either tiny to practically non-existent or they can be explained with a number of social reasons such as self-esteem or expectations (see e.g. http://www.apa.org/research/action/share.aspx ).

    But the real problem is that there is a constant demand for studies supporting the idea of fundamental gender differences everywhere. Bad research sells even in the enlightened West, see e.g. http://www2.psychology.uiowa.edu/faculty/harvey/Men_are_from_Earth.pdf . No wonder if in today’s Hungary textbook authors can market their pre-scientific prejudices as “research results” – considering that the Prime Minister’s Christian-Democrat deputy just recently called the evolution “just a theory” (and there are many other interesting things in which the leaders of Hungary “just don’t believe”, see http://index.hu/belfold/2014/08/21/10_dolog_amiben_nem_hisz_a_kormany/ ).

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