After a court in Navarra sentenced a group of Spanish friends to nine years in prison for the lesser crime of sexual abuse, clearing them of rape charges that would have put them behind the bars for more than 20 years, people across the country are calling to protests against a judicial system that disesteems the testimony of the victim.
A group of friends who call themselves “La Manada” (The Herd of the Wolf Pack in Spanish), raped an 18-year-old woman from Madrid on the San Fermin 2016 celebrations, but judges decided to charge them with “sexual abuse” instead of sexual aggression, violent assault and crimes against intimacy because the woman didn't fight back and did not seem intimidated, and therefore the judge argued that the crime wasn't a violent abuse.
The charge is used in cases of sexual activity between underage partners and those seen not capable of giving permission for sexual relations, such as those who are severely handicapped or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Public and private prosecutors were demanding between 22 and 25 years of prison for Jose Angel Prenda, Angel Boza Florido, Jesus Escudero Dominguez, Alfonso Jesus Cabezuelo and Antonio Manuel Guerrero Escudero, while they demanded complete absolution.
At the end, the court sentenced them to nine years in prison and five years on probation, as the judge ruled that the girl wasn't really raped by the five men who forced themselves on her.
The judge, who did not give the reasoning behind the sentence, also ordered the men to pay the victim 50,000 euros, about US$60,825, in damages. The ruling can be appealed in Spain's Supreme Court.
People gathered outside the court chanting “It's rape, not abuse” and “I do believe you” in protest of the ruling, with their hands painted in red as a symbol of sexual aggression. The protest was called by several feminist organizations, including Andrea, Lunes Lilas and Gafas Moradas.
Feminist groups scheduled protests for Thursday evening in Spanish cities around the country, including outside the Justice Ministry in Madrid, in reaction to the sentence. "If five people surrounding a girl is not aggression, the question has to be what is wrong with our penal code?" former Secretary of State for Equality Soledad Murillo said in comments published in El Pais newspaper.
National Police also showed their support for the victim, saying in a Tweet: "No is no - we are with you".
The five men, including a former policeman and a former soldier, and the victim were not present in court. The men have been held in custody since July 2016.
“In any case, it's clear that you weren't in pain during the events,” judge Ricardo Gonzalez told the girl after questioning her, suggesting some sort of consent towards the five men that were raping her.
“I closed eyes... I wasn't speaking, I wasn't doing anything. I was submitting with my eyes closed... All I did was submitting to them. I submitted to them and did everything they told me to do,” she said.
Ricardo Gonzalez wanted to absolve all five friends of the sexual abuse charges, while only recognizing one of them had stolen the girl's mobile phone.
"Setting up ballot boxes in a “democratic” country is more penalized than gang raping a woman. Today is protest day."
“Look at the faces of these beasts. Names and last names included. Raping is easy in the Spanish dictatorship. They were asking for 22, and they were given 5. #LaManada”
Sexual aggressions have been somehow normalized at the San Fermin celebrations, which brings more than one million people to Pamplona for the nine-day-long festival in July, but feminist organizations have been fighting for years to deoument and condemn this aggresive behavior.
They have been successful in some cases and the government has promoted campaigns to prevent further abuses. Thousands of people took to the streets two years ago to protest against sexual assault at the festival and the Pamplona council has mounted a campaign against sexual harassment in recent years, increasing policing and encouraging women to report attacks.
However, women rights groups continue to warn that the Spanish judicial system still favors a male-dominated society in which women’s cries for equality falls on deaf ears in most cases.
“Nagore resisted against her rapist in San Fermin. He beat her to death. Eight years after he's free. The message: if you resist, you get killed; if you don't resist, we don't believe you. #LaManada”
Last year, the lawyer of three members of the attackers said his clients were “no role model at all,” and even called them “imbeciles” and “simple” mostly concerned with soccer and sexual relations, but that they were “good sons” that are “getting their lives destroyed without committing any crime.”