April 28, 2018
During San Fermin 2016 celebrations in Pamplona (Spain), 5 men forced one 18-year-old woman to have sex with them in the entrance hall of a residential building. Moreover, the 5 men recorded the sexual intercourse in video and after this they stole her phone so she could not communicate. The five men were accused of gang raping the woman, who was drunk and unable to consent.
During the trial, shocking statements were made including:
– Talking about her appearance in court: “With a jovial rictus, affability, lack of distress and a peculiar way of sitting”. As if she could not be a victim unless she was looking like a victim.
– Talking about the appearance of the woman during the sexual intercourse: “neutral and non-active role”. As if her lack of strong opposition was a sign of consent.
On Thursday the 26th of April 2018 the trial finished. The result is that Spanish court did not consider the incident a gang rape but a lesser offence: sexual abuse. To our surprise, as long as the Spanish court claimed that no violence or intimidation was used, the crime is not considered as rape. As a result of this, the 5 men will be released from prison after just 9 years instead of 20 years.
We, AEGEE members, while respecting the ruling of the Spanish court, are deeply concerned by how the jury evaluated the evidence: lacking impartiality with the victim, placing in doubt her testimony and trying to remove veracity from her words. In our opinion, the jury ignored the fact that she could not show clear opposition to the sexual intercourse due to her state of consciousness and the shock of being surrounded by 5 men 10 years older than her.
We believe that the problem is not only with how the jury evaluated the evidence but also with the law itself. We consider that the fact that she was not conscious of the situation does not exclude the fact that the crime is still a rape. We consider that a drunk and almost unresponsive person is unable to defend him or herself and take a responsible decision of accepting or not a sexual intercourse. This should not be a reason to apply a different (and softer) criminal responsibility.
We strongly believe that the whole trial was a cross-examination of the victim rather than the men who committed it. It does not matter how the law calls it, the crime is still a rape. We claim that this is an insult not only to the victim but also to all past and future victims of sexual assault and to the whole society.
We, as a student organisation, will continue to work and strive for raising awareness about the importance of consent and mutual respect, especially among young people. We hope that Europe will lead the fight against sexual assaults and that such cases will never be again treated as a minor offence.