The Wolf Pack Rape Case Reveals the Machismo-Engulfed Structure of Spain’s Judicial System
On July 7 2016, during the Pamplona San Fermin bull-running festival, a group of five men (who referred to themselves as the wolf pack) forced an 18 year old young woman into the basement of a building where the Guardian reports that they ‘sexually penetrated her nine times within the space of half an hour’, before stealing her phone and leaving her lying there defenceless and incapable of calling out for help. She was later found crying, curled up in the foetal position on a bench by a couple passing by.
The men went on to boast about their exploits in their WhatsApp group, sending videos of the horrific assault and going on to joke about raping other women. The BBC reports that texts included messages about rape drugs, writing “because when we get there, we’ll want to rape everything that we set eyes on”.
Just over two years on, in April 2018, the men were released on bail after serving less than a quarter of their nine-year sentence, allowing them to roam free. They were acquitted of rape, and charged with the lesser offence of ‘sexual abuse’. The judge’s defence for this decision? The woman had remained silent and submissive throughout the ordeal and therefore it can’t have been rape as she didn’t put up a fight. Plus, days later she was captured smiling with friends, therefore can’t have been traumatised by the assault.
Following the announcement of the verdict, over 30,000 protesters took to the streets of Pamplona campaigning against the result, donning banners with slogans like “it’s not abuse, it’s rape”. International communities have since joined the protests, calling for reform of the misogynistic and machismo-engulfed structure that Spain’s judicial system is based on.
The Spanish criminal code states that for an assault to constitute rape, there needs to be evidence of violence or intimidation. So essentially, whether or not a sexual encounter is consensual, if there is no form of violence against the woman it can’t be considered rape.
Spain’s penal code is in desperate need of review.
In the first three months of 2018, El Pais writes that reports of rape increased by 28.4% with an average of over four reports in a day. Spain continues to be consumed by a crisis of sexual abuse and rape. Reports of assault simply aren’t being taken seriously, and women continue to be inundated by a victim-blaming rhetoric, arguing that they were complacent in their own rapes. Following the release of the ‘wolf pack’ rapists, a copycat assault was committed by four men and a boy against a girl in Gran Canaria. The group went as far as calling themselves ‘la nueva manada’ (the new wolf pack), directly linking themselves to the Pamplona rapists and glorifying their heinous crimes. The law is sending out a message that men will be able to get away with rape and sexual assault. If the legal system doesn’t go through a vital review, women will lose faith in the legal system and stop reporting these assaults. Women will continue to live in fear that the perpetrators of their rapes and assaults will be allowed to go about their daily lives as if nothing happened. In the wolf-pack case, two of the men were members of the civil guard, one being a soldier and the other a police officer. Both men have been allowed to return to duty. The law puts the man before the woman, the criminal before the victim.
The mere fact that excuses like ‘she had fun with her friends after the assault’ continue to be upheld in court is telling of a misogynistic penal code. The fact that silence is taken to mean consent is disgraceful. While there have been moves by Spain’s left-wing political party Podemos to propose a ‘yes means yes’ policy to take away ambiguity in rape cases, this is yet to be put down on paper.
Spain needs to get one thing clear in their laws:
If a woman does not explicitly consent to being penetrated, it is rape. She doesn’t have to struggle, she doesn’t have to fight, she doesn’t have to be violently beaten to a pulp for it to be rape. She doesn’t have to scream, she doesn’t have to kick, she doesn’t have to bite for it to be rape. If a woman is forcefully penetrated by five strangers who force her into a dingy basement and film their atrocious assaults, it is rape.
The victim, however, hasn’t let this disappointing verdict stop her activism for women’s rights in Spain. She continues to fight and encourage rape victims not to stay silent. She writes:
“Tell a friend, a relative, the police, in a tweet, do it as you wish but tell it. Do not stay silent, because if you do you are letting them win. Nobody has to go through this. No one has to regret drinking, talking to people at a party, going home alone or wearing a miniskirt. Please, I just ask that no matter how much you think you will not be believed, you report it. You will think that you do not have the strength to fight, but you would be surprised to know the strength that human beings have. I want to thank all the people who without knowing me… gave me a voice when many tried to take it away from me. Thank you for not abandoning me, for believing me, sisters. Thanks for everything from the bottom of my heart. Just like we’re aware not to joke around with illnesses, we can’t joke around with rape. It’s indecent and it’s in our power to change this. It’s really good to condemn incidents, but we all need to participate in change. Personally, if my case has stirred the consciences of one person or has given strength to another to fight, I am satisfied”.
Now, she’s got VERVE.
Article by Chanju Mwanza