Apr 30th, 2018, 05:41 PM

Advocates Bite Back After Sentencing of "The Wolf Pack"

By Gabriel Green
A standing demonstration took place at Trocadéro in Paris on Saturday to support for the victim of rape by five men that occurred during the running of the bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain in July, 2016. Image credit: Gabriel Green
Outrage over a Spanish gang-rape trial verdict ignites demonstrations throughout Spain, international community

Nearly 200 women gathered at Place du Trocadéro in Paris on Sunday to show their solidarity for an 18-year-old girl from Madrid who was raped by five men, one of whom was a civil police officer, during the running of the bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain in July 2016.

Last week, after a nearly two-year-long trial, a court in Pamplona ruled that the five perpetrators, who referred to themselves as "la manada," Spanish for "the wolf pack," were guilty of sexual abuse. The court's decision on Thursday to drop all charges of rape and instead charge the perpetrators of sexual abuse, a lesser crime under Spanish law, has sparked public outrage across Spain and the international community. 


Carrying signs with messages like "no es no" and " it's not abuse, it's rape," an estimated 35,000 people took to the streets of Pamplona on Saturday to demonstrate against the court's ruling. Several more demonstrations have taken place in major cities across Europe such as Paris, Berlin, Lisbon, London, Brussels and Dublin since Thursday's sentencing.

Under the current ruling for sexual abuse, the perpetrators each face nine years in prison, €10,000 in fines to the victim, five years' probation, as well as a €900 fine issued to one of the perpetrators for the theft of the victim's phone during the attack. However, the prosecution originally pursued sentences of up to 22 years in prison for the perpetrators under charges of rape. 

During a standing demonstration at Trocadéro in Paris on Sunday, women take turns voicing their support for the victim of rape by five men that took place during the running of the bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain in July 2016. Protests formed throughout major cities in Europe following a controversial court decision to drop rape charges against the perpetrators. Image credit: Gabriel Green
Participants of Sunday's demonstration huddle underneath umbrellas as they show their support for "la víctima." Image credit: Gabriel Green
"Respect me" reads a sign held by a protester. Image credit: Gabriel Green

Within the Spanish legal system, sexual abuse is defined as "whoever, without violence or intimidation and without there being consent, perpetrates acts against the sexual freedom or indemnity of another person." Advocates, as well as the prosecution, argues that the attack on the victim was indeed violent and the court's ruling to drop rape charges sets a disturbing precedent for future cases. 

Many advocates for the victim have pointed out several faults within the procedures of the trial. Instead of focusing on the actions of the perpetrators, advocates claim, the trail disproportionately focussed on the behavior and actions of the victim. Among these complaints was that evidence collected by a private investigator, who had been hired by some of the perpetrators to follow and document the behavior of the victim, had been permitted in court. 

"No es no," shout participants of Sunday's demonstration. Image credit: Gabriel Green

This evidence was then used by the defense to question the existence and severity of victim's psychological trauma, citing photos taken surreptitiously by the private investigator, showing the victim smiling with a group of her friends. The defense also focused on her use of social media, which showed the victim going to parties.

However, in a response during the trial, the victim stated "I’m not going to post pictures of myself crying. I’m trying to lead a normal life. I’m not going to post a picture of myself on social media crying so that everyone can ask, ‘What happened to that girl?’ No. I’m going to continue living normally, and what I normally do is post pictures of myself out partying,” according to a Public Radio International report. All evidence collected by the perpetrators' private investigator was later thrown out.

Women's rights groups have also claimed that representation of the trial in the news has reinforced sexist and patriarchic viewpoints. 

Participants of Sunday's demonstration huddle underneath umbrellas as they show their support for "la víctima." Image credit: Gabriel Green
"The wolf pack is us" reads a sign held by a protester on Sunday. Image credit: Gabriel GreenProtestors hold signs reading "I believe you," "no is no," and "it's rape" during Sunday's demonstration. Image credit: Gabriel Green

During the attack, the perpetrators recorded a minute-and-a-half-long video depicting the victim unmoving with her eyes closed. Furthering the anger of many advocates was the defense's use of this piece of evidence to assert that the victim's apparent state of nonresistance was proof of her consent to the acts.

 “The defendants want us to believe that on that night they met an 18-year-old girl, living a normal life, who, after 20 minutes of conversation with people she didn’t know, agreed to group sex involving every type of penetration, sometimes simultaneously, without using a condom,” said prosecuting attorney Elena Sarasate during the trial according to a report from The Guardian. 

Participants in Sunday's demonstration roll up a banner as the event comes to a close. Image credit: Gabriel Green

The country's judiciary system has come under criticism for the manner in which the trial was conducted. Numerous women's rights groups, NGOs such as Amnesty International, and public officials, including the Spanish national police and the country's justice minister, have come out in support of the victim, reprimanding the court's ruling. 

"She said NO. We believed you and we continue to believe you. If what #LaManada did was not group violence against a helpless woman, what do we understand then by rape? # NoesNo," tweeted Pedro Sánchez of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party. The national police tweeted "#NoesNo #NoalaViolencia #NoalaAgresión #NoalAcoso #NoalosAbusos ESTAMOS SIEMPRE CONTIGO," following the reading of the verdict on Thursday. 

Rafael Catalá, Spain's justice minister, called into question the "faculties" of a judge who presided over the case. Following these comments, some judges and prosecutors have called for Catalá's resignation. According to a report by The Guardian, by Saturday a petition calling for the resignation of the judges presiding over the trial had accumulated over 1.2 million signatures. 

Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo said on Friday that the government is debating whether the country's sexual crime laws need to be "updated." 

Both the victim and the five perpetrators intend to appeal to the court's decision.