STA, 22 August 2022 - UPDATED 18:45 The police have launched an investigation in the aftermath of media reports and social media testimonies concerning alleged multiple cases of sexual abuse by a prominent member of the art establishment.
The investigation targets "criminal offences highlighted in recent days in the media and in social media," the police said in a statement for the press without specifying who the suspect may be.
The statement comes after several media reported that Dušan Josip Smodej, an artist and leader of a small gallery in Ljubljana called Fotopub, had sexually abused several young women.
The media reports started after an Instagram page called Against Violence by Dušan Smodej was launched. So far more than two dozen testimonies have been published on the page either by individuals claiming to have been abused by Smodej or by people who say they have witnessed abuse of or attempts to abuse young women, including minors, and instances of him giving rape drugs to young women.
Several individuals have also come forward claiming he has defrauded them.
Smodej denied the claims for 24ur, a news portal. He said the allegations were the result of "a female acquaintance of mine who has been sending me death threats this week and is extorting me for money with the posts about me."
"I deny all allegations of sexual violence. If anyone can prove the contrary, I urge them to press criminal charges against me," he said.
The police have urged potential victims to come forward and file criminal complaints.
Potential victims were also urged to report the alleged crimes to the police by the 8 March Institute on Monday. Its director Nika Kovač said the NGO had contacted the administrators of the Instagram profile, letting them know that they can provide support for the victims and help raise funds for legal support.
She underlined that the NGO is following the law in that they would refer to a perpetrator with their name only after they have been found guilty in a court of law.
The institute has been running a campaign dubbed #Ididn'tReport, with victims sharing anonymised stories about why they decided not to go to the police after experiencing abuse.
Many reasons are cited, including fear of what will happen at the relevant institutions, poor experience by others and because victims are often ashamed of having been drunk or under the influence of drugs while being abused.
The police also said today it was investigating "the circumstances of an event in which one person died" to see whether there was a reason to suspect foul play, but added that no foul play had so far been detected.
This is after some media reports unofficially suggested that prominent artist Roman Uranjek had committed suicide, allegedly in connection to the Smodej scandal.
The Culture Ministry meanwhile responded by condemning all types of violence on Monday. Minister Asta Vrečko called for zero tolerance to violence, including in culture, and announced systemic measures.
She noted that a trial had just started where an ex-professor from the Ljubljana Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television is being accused of sexual harassment of female students. "So it is obvious that we have a problem with sexual harassment in the culture sector and it needs to be absolutely and clearly condemned in the strongest terms," she said, adding that sexual violence was a major social issue that was not being addressed properly.
The ministry has launched a review of all its past projects with Smodej, she added in a written statement.