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Scrutiny and Doubt Over Rape Victim's Testimony Sparks Outrage in Spain

Texts in the signs left to right: “I believe you, sister”; “I believe you”; “Murderous patriarchy; media accomplice.” A group in Madrid supports the victim of an alleged rape. Photo from eldiario.es / MB. CC-BY-SA

November 13 marked the start of the court case against the so-called La Manada (the pack), a group of five young men from Seville, Spain accused of raping an 18-year-old woman over a year ago during the popular San Fermin Festival in Pamplona on the night of July 7, 2016.

The judge's decisions have sparked outrage and accusations of sexist bias, casting doubt on the victim's account and subjecting to her to a trial by public opinion.

On the night in question, the accused group insisted on accompanying the young woman back home after the celebrations. At a certain point, they took her into the hallway of a building where four of them raped her while the other filmed it with the intention of sending the video to friends. The accused also took the victim's mobile phone “so that she couldn't get help,” according to reports.

A couple found the woman in a state of shock and called the police. A few hours later, the five young men were detained and brought to court. The judge ruled that they would be held without bail.

In the days that followed, more details emerged. Calling themselves “La Manada,” the group discussed their deeds with profanities in a joking tone with friends who had not attended the festival. Boastful messages like “banging one between five of us” and “there's video,” were exchanged among the group including a member of the police force and a member of the military.

The alleged attackers used the same messaging service to discuss preparations for their Pamplona trip, making date rape jokes like “shall we bring scopolomine?” and “we need to start looking for chloroform, roofies, rope…”

Double standards in admitting evidence

In court, the judge would not admit the Whatsapp messages exchanged prior to the alleged rape as evidence for the prosecution. However, the defense hired a private detective to track the victim's social media usage after the alleged attack and the judge allowed this admission as evidence in the case.

On her program Cadena Ser, Journalist Carles Francino asks:

¿Qué se intentaría exactamente demostrar con ese seguimiento a posteriori de la chica, de la mujer? ¿Por qué interesa tanto cómo es su vida, su día a día? ¿Acaso existe algún patrón de conducta para las mujeres violadas que sirva como una especie de certificado de la agresión? (…) Lo que queda meridiana y lamentablemente claro es que dudar de la palabra de una mujer que dice haber sido agredida sigue funcionando (…)

What exactly are they trying to show from following the movements of this girl, this woman? Why are they so interested in her life, her day to day? Perhaps there's some kind of pattern of behavior for women who have been raped which serves as some kind of validation of the attack? What remains sadly and abundantly clear is that doubting the word of a woman who says she has been raped is still going on (…)

Writer Almudena Grandes also expressed unease about the case:

Se podría pensar que admitir como prueba el informe de un detective sobre la vida cotidiana de la víctima de una violación sería parecido a aceptar, en un caso de asesinato, un testimonio que probara que el muerto era un malvado que merecía morir, para que la defensa solicite que se considere como atenuante. (…) lo que pretende culpabilizar a la víctima de La Manada, sembrar dudas sobre su condición moral, es que se atreviera a salir a la calle, a tomar copas con sus amigas, después de haber sido violada, en lugar de quedarse en su casa con todas las persianas bajadas y la cabeza cubierta de ceniza.

It could be assumed that admitting evidence of a detective's report on the daily life of a rape victim is the same as accepting, in a murder case, a testimony that prooves that the deceased was a wrongdoer who deserved to die, in order that the defense can claim extenuating circumstances.. (…) which aim to blame the victim of La Manada, raising doubts about her moral condition, that she dared to go out, to have a drink with her friends after being raped, instead of staying at home with the blinds down, wearing sackcloth and ashes.

Writer and journalist Antonio Pamliega, who was kidnapped at the hands of Al-Qaeda, wrote a thread on Twitter defending the victim, empathizing with the doubt and blame he faced for his own kidnapping:

That Twitter is a bar where patrons can spit out all kinds of harsh remarks is something that I knew already. But recently dangerous limits are being reached like putting into doubt the testimony of a rape victim because of trying to rebuild her life. So I want to share something:

— Antonio Pampliega (@APampliega) 15 November 2017

“I believe you”….or not?

This case has caused great controversy online about the importance of believing a victim's testimony to prevent the silencing and stigmatization of rape victims. Internet users activated widely-used hashtags like #Lamanada and #JusticiaPatriarcal to express strong opinions:

Not content with raping us, men also have to tell us how to behave before, during and after the rape. If it's not too much to ask, find an agreement and put together a rape manual so that we're good girls and don't disgust the world #JusticiaPatriarcal

— Suspiritos (@AgrariaLola) 15 November 2017

To those of #LaManada asking that their information isn't leaked and people not listening. It must be hard to be saying No and not have people respecting that

— Teo de la Fuente (@Maestre_Temple) 14 November 2017

Presumed innocent: messages to your buddies that you are going to San Fermin loaded with roofies for rape, “banging one between five” that “as she was in a coma,” you film it and send it and later you take her mobile. Consensual sex they call it. #JusticiaPatriarcal

— Coronela (@coronela_defog) 15 November 2017

The Whatsapp group #LaManada is one of those funny groups for guys where they talk ‘in jest’ about women as if they are inflatable dolls, jokes about rape, with photos of bums and tits. Surely many of you are in groups like this? Don't you hate having something in common with those guys?

— Nixarim a.k.a Deed (@Nixarim) 15 November 2017

False sexual assault accusations are relatively rare yet the defense's strategy has convinced some people that the woman may have falsely accused the group.

This is how RPMallorqui puts it on Twitter:

#LaManada are the devils and the girl is a saint, how many times have we heard this story? How stupid and ignorant are the general sheep-like masses who think it's impossible that it could be the opposite? This is why we have judges and sentences, we will see…

— RPMallorqui (@rpmallorqui) 14 November 2017

Thousands of protesters marched in a number of Spanish cities under the slogan “Yo sí te creo” (I do believe you), to support the alleged rape victim in this case and stress the need to validate rape victims’ testimonies.

However, this fight seems to have a long road ahead, according to derogatory comments like “LeGuillotin's” under the report made by eldiario.es:

Es una manada sí, pero de becerras, asnas y garrapatas demagogas que se creen que por gritar lo que les salga del chirri están por encima del derecho a la presunción de inocencia. Lo que no dicen es que la tunanta de Pamplona se lió a gusto con la otra “manada” hasta que vió la luz divina y dijo que había sido violada.
Por cierto, ni una guapa.., como es norma entre las chillonas lesbohembristas, entre todas esas del video. Como decía un chiste…no hay prisión que admita tanta fealdad

It is indeed a pack of animals, but rather a herd of calves, donkeys, or a swarm of demagogical mites that think that by making lots of noise they are above the law and the presumption of innocence. What they don't say is that the hussy of Pamplona got with the other “manada” quite happily until she saw the divine light and said that she had been raped. Indeed, not a pretty girl…, which is standard among the shrill men-hating lesbians like on the video. As the Spanish saying goes, there's no prison which could hold such ugliness.

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