Spain’s Supreme Court ruled that five men who attacked a teenager at a bull-running festival were guilty of rape not the lesser crime of sexual abuse.
Spain’s apex court decided that violence and intimidation cannot be defined by a victim’s response in retaliation or subjugation. A rape victims cannot be expected to act in a dangerously heroic way.
- The reversal of the original verdict concludes a case which sparked mass protests across Spain over chauvinism and sexual abuse.
- The Spanish Supreme Court accepted that the victim’s ordeal met the requirement in Spanish law for evidence of intimidation or specific violence.
- The ruling, hailed by women’s’ rights groups and by the government, changes the earlier ruling of sexual abuse by a regional court.
- Lawyers of the victim, who was 18 when she was gang-raped in 2016 by five men called the “Wolf Pack”, argued that shock and fear had stopped her from fighting them.
- The issue became key during elections in Spain in April 2019 where the government promised to change the law.
The Supreme Court considered it a rape “because the factual account describes a scenario of true intimidation, in which the victim did not at any moment consent to the sexual acts carried out by the accused”.
The men, who include a former policeman and a former soldier, had shared videos of the incident in a WhatsApp group, which became pivotal to the trial.
The men have earlier been convicted of sexual abuse with a sentence of 9 years each. But the verdict wasn’t well-received, and induced outrage which, along with international attention in the wake of the global #MeToo movement, brought the treatment of women at the heart of Spain’s public debate.
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The Supreme Court and public prosecutor Isabel Rodriguez were in line on their views that violence and intimidation was used and victims cannot be expected to act in a dangerously heroic way.
The government is pushing forward with plans to change the law, after winning the elections with women’s rights and gender violence at the heart of debate.
In the wake of the verdict, Spain is pushing for an amendment in the law where it should not be required for proof of the victim putting up a fight to define if there was violence.
Spain Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Twitter, “Spain continues to advance in the protection of women’s rights and freedoms, and it will not stop. Because we believed her (the victim), because we believe you.”
The sentence for the five men now stands at 15 years instead of the 9 years that the regional court had served opining that the men could not be convicted of rape without proof of physical violence. The victim will also be compensated with 100,000 euros ($113,190) collectively from the indicted men.