In the early hours of July 7, 2016, a young woman from Madrid – then just 18 – was making her way from the chaos of the running of the bulls festival in Pamplona to the car she was sleeping in while staying in the city.
A group of five men who referred to themselves as ‘La Manada’ (the Wolf Pack) approached her as she walked, offering to accompany the teenager to her car. Instead, they proceeded to haul the young woman into the doorway of an apartment building’s lobby. There, all five men had unprotected sexual intercourse her while filming the attack on their phones. They then allegedly stole her phone and ran, leaving her slumped, alone and battered in the doorway of a strange building in Pamplona.
A short while later, a couple stumbled on the woman lying on a bench, crying and curled into the foetal position. She went to police, gave detailed descriptions of the five men and each were arrested the following day.
Now, nearly two years after the fact, the five assailants, including a police officer and a soldier, were cleared of raping the teenager but found guilty of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse does not encompass rape and carries a lesser sentence in Spain – in this case nine years each instead of a possible 22.
On Saturday, over 32,000 people in Spain stormed the streets of Pamplona, chanting slogans such as “it is not abuse, it is aggression, we believe you” and “it’s OK sister, here is your wolfpack”.
The case has since made headlines across the world, outrage exploding for not solely the verdict but the entire state of Spain’s judiciary process.
After all, the five men – who, by the way, later shared the video they took on a Whatsapp group in which they referred to themselves as La Manada – were cleared of rape after a judge said there was no evidence of violence or intimidation in their actions.
Right now, a victim must prove that a perpetrator was violent or intimidating to gain a rape conviction.
“The rape victim has been put in the position of demonstrating that she was not responsible for being raped by five men – five,” said Argelia Queralt, a law professor at the University of Barcelona and a specialist in gender issues.
“It’s particularly worrying that in a court case they continue to apply standards that are inappropriate in rape cases, that continue to put the woman in the spotlight, further adding to the harm she has suffered.”
Vanessa Grigoriadis explains the importance of mattress girl in our rape culture. Post continues after audio.
Amnesty International Spain told The Guardian the system’s inability to recognise cases without consent constitute rape “foments the idea that the responsibility falls to us as women to protect ourselves from rape”.
Perhaps even more disturbingly, a key piece of evidence of the defence was a 96-second video taken from the suspects’ phones which showed the woman immobile and with her eyes shut. It was this fact – the victim’s silence and immobility – that the defence claim indicted consent.
On top of that, the judge accepted as evidence a report compiled by a private investigator who was hired by some of the defendants in the days after their arrest. According to The Washington Post, the private detective secretly followed the victim in the days after the incident, taking photos of her smiling and laughing with friends as evidence, the defence argued, the woman was not traumatised.
While state prosecutors say they will appeal the ruling, the case is a harsh but significant lesson in our post Weinstein-era punctuated by talk of Time being Up: We still have a long way to go.