How La Manada changed the way gender violence is perceived in Spain
Today the development of legal procedures regarding equality between men and women, the advancement of gender theory, feminist thinking and social changes are recognizable as women’s successes. However, issues such as gender violence, precariousness, or the wage gap endure and are some of the most serious problems of modern society.
One of the most relevant cases of gender violence in recent years in Spain and that has had a strong impact around the world is known as “La Manada” (The Herd).
La Manada was an act of sexual violence that took place in Navarra, Spain, on July 7, 2016. Five men sexually abused an 18-year-old woman during the San Fermín festivities.
The case was one of the most followed by public opinion and caused great controversy because the main defense strategy used by the abusers relied on attacks towards the victim’s attitude during the event.
According to Carmen Ruiz Repullo, professor and researcher at the Pablo de Olavide University, “sexual violence is much more established in society than we think. We live in a culture of rape that continues to blame the victim and justify the culprit, which continues to use women as a sexual claim, which continues to reproduce sexist jokes that are not outrageous to all citizens. Finding girls who have not suffered some type of sexual violence is very unusual. When you approach the topic of sexual aggression and put on the table all the ways in which it is produced and reproduced, from compliment to multiple aggression, we can not find girls who have not suffered any of these aggressions“.
The strong repercussion of this case is striking when similar situations that have taken place in Spain have gone much more unnoticed.
To the expert, this is due to the current social moment. “The impact of the case La Manada is very related to the social moment we are living. The multiple aggression of La Manada has caused a social awakening of patriarchal anesthesia that had us asleep and numbed.” But also internationally, the accusations of sexual abuse in the film industry, the phenomenon #MeToo has also been fundamental to this awareness.”
During the La Manada’s trial, many personalities and public figures defended the innocence of the accused, mainly alleging that the victim “did not resist the sexual act”.
One of the judges who took the case, Ricardo Javier González, said it has nothing to do with the conduct constituting a sex crime. “The seriousness that socially assumes that a juridical person adopts this position is “a risk for all women”, “a justice that legislates against women” in favor of the aggressor’s brakes when it comes to filing a complaint, we are silenced, it leaves us at a judicial level”, says the teacher.
“Currently, the reform of the [Spanish] Criminal Code” which is related to sexual crimes, contemplates various forms of sexual assault and resolve the issue of force does not imply consent. Not always that we consent means we want. However, whenever we wish, we consent”
In addition, in 2017 a total of almost 30 thousand victims of gender violence were recognized, according to the National Institute of Statistics.
According to the teacher, the policy and the possible release of the accused “would have meant a massive practice of the streets, social networks, and the media. But what worries me the most is that women have positioned themselves in a vulnerable legal and social position, there is not a single judicial system but society as a whole.”
Among the multiple social reactions in the case of La Manada, mobilizations against the final sentence, the social abuse of foreign countries, the need to revise the penal code or the lack of training of traditional practices in the gender perspective.
“From the case of La Manada, society has demanded a deep review of the administrations not only at the legislative level, but also at the social level. I hope that in a short time, we have a rule on the subject of sexual assault that protects women and really all forms of sexual assault that we suffer. “
The majority of victims of sexist violence do not consider that the aggressions suffered are crimes, a fact which, together with a high tolerance for social violence, means that few women initiate a judicial process. However, women are empowering themselves, conquering new spaces and achieving social change.
“I do not think we are in a society where girls are more afraid than before, I think that now there is greater awareness about why we are afraid, why they have been inculcating it since childhood, and this is causing us to turn around , that we begin to face the fears to really be free and occupy the different spaces in freedom” said Professor Ruiz.
By Paula Rubio (Spain)