I Believe You
Trigger Warning: graphic descriptions of rape
This has been a sad weekend for Spain. I’m going to try and break it down for you – and I hope you will read, share, and feel the same rage that all women have felt in Spain since the verdict of the La Manada case. But more importantly, I hope you feel the same sense of change, urgency and shift that is happening in Spain, and across the globe, towards a more equal world for women – intersectionally and intergenerationally.
Two years ago at the running of the bulls festival in Pamplona a teenager, a girl of just 18, was brutally gang raped by five men. One of them was a Guardia Civil (a police officer) and one was ex-military. The group of men, José Ángel Prenda, Alfonso Cabezuelo, Antonio Manuel Guerrero, Jesús Escudero and Ángel Boza had a WhatsApp group called “La Manada” or, The Wolfpack (can my eyes roll any further back in my head? No. Toxic masculinity and machismo is just so fucking predictable.) On this group they planned their day’s celebrations – including talking about getting chloroform and rope for the rape of an as yet unchosen victim during the Pamplona festival. When they found the anonymous girl, drunk and alone, they offered to walk her to her car. Instead of doing so however, they took her to an empty building and slowly, deliberately took turns in raping her. Sometimes together, sometimes one by one. Oh, and they filmed it.
It is obvious to me, and I hope to you, that even a caress that may appear gentle can be violent rape. Because all forms of rape are violent, whether you leave a bruise or not. The violation of a person’s body without their consent, is rape. Which is violence. It’s often discussed as to “why” women don’t attack, or run, or cry out in these situations and to that I firstly say, fuck you, why don’t you ask that question after it happens to you? And secondly, there is a reason women freeze in that situation. It is always violent, and violence from a man (or 5), who is stronger than you is frightening. There is nothing you can do. It is a way to protect yourself from death – because that is the only place that fighting leads. Quick reminder: 1 in 3 women in the world will experience sexual violence. This is important as the video of the anonymous woman shows her standing silently and not running, and the defense tried to claim that this was evidence of her consent. She was found crying in the street afterwards, and the men were arrested the following day.
But according to Spanish law, rape can only be rape with a pre-approved version of violence included. And according to the court, and the judges, this was not rape but merely sexual assault – as it lacked “violence”. The men were sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment, five years’ probation and ordered to pay €10,000 each to the woman. They will probably get out far earlier, and they will live a life unscarred by their act. The woman whose life they used for their own pleasure, for their own desire, to prove themselves powerful and dominant, has been forever changed.
Sexual violence and the lack of women’s rights in Spain, compared to other slightly more progressive parts of the EU (such as my birthplace, Sweden), is rife, and has been since Franco. But things are changing – and I believe this is the year that feminism takes center stage in Spain. Two years ago the government tried to change abortion laws, but were stopped by mass protests. This year on the 8th of March, the Women’s March was larger and more important across the globe than any other year, and especially here in Spain where conversations are building, grassroots groups are forming and women and men are standing up for an end to violence against women and true equality. It seems to me that this new feminism is intersectional, and intergenerational in a way that we haven’t seen in feminism before – the richest, most powerful wall-street company in Spain that owns Santander is vocally supporting the woman of the La Manada case – as are members of both left and right wing parties. It seems that feminism, and women’s rights, are becoming less politicized, and more clearly understood as what they are – women’s rights are human rights, and should be equally given no matter class, race, age, gender, sexual preference or political view. So whether you stand to left, the center, or the right, it is your duty to stand with all of your sisters, not just your cis-ters, and say “I Believe You” or, like me, #Yosítecreo.