Country, Date of election
Czech Republic 1995
Petra Vitousová is creating a volunteer-based support network for the victims of violent crime in the Czech Republic.
Immediately after 1989 the violent crime rate was on a significant rise. Vulnerability and helplessness of victims of crime were exacerbated by the absence of support mechanisms for them which could determine their needs and provide psychological or legal advice, or help getting financial compensation for injury. Back in the 90’s the rights of victims in criminal proceedings were very weak. Victims were of marginal interest to society and institutions. They lacked respect, information, protection and compensation for damages. Even though during the past 23 years many things got better, especially in sectors of legislation, the administers of justice still have substantial reservations when it comes to considering the situations of victims.
Twenty three years after its launch, the White Circle of Safety is a nation-wide organization providing support by organizing the work of 420 expert volunteers in 13 chapters in 9 regions of the Czech Republic. BKB registers about 12 000 cases directly concerned with victims’ claims every year. The organization operates a non-stop help line and as of 2015 it will operate a European call centre number – 116 006 – which will be free of charge. The White Circle of Safety is active in the field of change and creation of legislation, not only on a national level but also on an EU level as a member of Victim Support Europe. Every year the organization offers its expertise to judges, students, social workers, NGO teams and members of the Police force.
Petra founded Bílý Kruh Bezpečí (White Circle of Safety), an organization that offers comprehensive counseling and aftercare for the victims of violent crime. It was the first of its kind in the Czech Republic, both in its focus on the needs of victims and in its solid volunteer base which includes lawyers, therapists, doctors and social workers. Some of the services provided by the center include psychological counseling, information and referrals, legal services and assistance with interacting with the police and courts, visiting a claimant in hospital, sending out a field worker, therapy programs, weekend retreats. BKB works together with the Foundation of Filip Venclík and the organization is always ready to provide immediate financial assistance, which is often the most pressing need.
To build up a comprehensive support system for victims and witnesses of crime, contribute to crime prevention and empower and improve rights of victims and witnesses involved in criminal trials. How to navigate within the system with a non stop helpline for victims.
Back in the 90’s, the main motivation was discontent and a sense of shame. Both stemmed from the profound knowledge of the situation, as Petra’s original profession was journalism and she wrote a lot about crime, its prevention and punishment. Today her main motivation is a meaningful job with a great professional team which stays in daily, direct contact with victims of violent crime and the bereaved.