Spain sex abuse trial: Teenage girl 'sexually assaulted by six men' gives tearful court testimony

Prosecutors sparked controversy for claiming sex attack was not rape as victim 'did not fight back'

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
@mayaoppenheim
Wednesday 10 July 2019 08:40
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Uncle of victim of alleged sex abuse tries to attack one of defendants at doors of Barcelona court

The teenage victim of an alleged attack perpetrated by six men in Spain has given a tearful testimony in court – saying she felt intimidated during the alleged incident in the town of Manresa.

The men are charged with abusing the girl when she was just 14-years-old in a disused factory in a town in the north-eastern region of Catalonia in October 2016. A seventh man is accused of masturbating while watching and failing to help her.

Prosecutors sparked controversy for arguing the men should face the lesser charge of sexual abuse rather than rape because the girl was drunk, under the influence of drugs and did not fight back.

Critics argue they should face accusations of rape or sexual assault – raising alarm bells about why the prosecutor has not pressed for the more serious charge.

Prosecutors say the six took turns to have sex with the girl who was “obviously” under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

One of the accused is said to have told each of them: “It’s your turn. Fifteen minutes each and no delay.”

The victim, who is now 17-years-old, and 12 other minors present at the party testified in court in Barcelona on Monday.

The girl, who gave testimony from behind a screen on so she did not have to face the accused, told the court: “I felt intimidated by them and by the [starting] pistol they were passing between them. I just cried”.

She said one of the accused was a friend with whom she had had sexual relations a week earlier, saying: “I never distrusted him”.

He is accused of leading her to a shack where he allegedly sexually abused her and then invited his friends to do likewise – informing them they each had 15 minutes.

The girl told the court she had drunk alcohol and smoked cannabis on the night but she thinks her drink was spiked.

The victim, who cried throughout her testimony, told the court she thought she had been raped by four men but the following day a friend had told her there were six. She was able to name all seven accused and knew their nicknames.

The girl said the first assault took place in a bathroom, saying: “It hurt, I don’t remember any more.”

She said she only remembered flashes of the alleged assault.

“In another flash, I am crying and someone with glasses is on top of me," she told the court. "There were lots of people jerking off."

The victim said the next day her friend told her that “the six men had penetrated me and I was crying.”

She told the court she walked to her uncle’s home where she had a shower and took the morning-after pill.

One girl, who was at the party, told the court that when she went into the shack the accused were standing around with their trousers off.

The accused have all denied having sexual relations with the victim, although sperm from one of them was found on her clothing.

“I don’t know how that could have got there, she must have sat on something,” one said on the opening day of the trial in Barcelona last week.

The prosecution previously claimed that although there was no consent, there was no violence or intimidation either, so the offence could not be considered as rape despite the fact the victim was not in a state to resist.

The assumption in either law or in practice that a victim gives their consent because they have not physically resisted is profoundly problematic since experts have identified “involuntary paralysis” or “freezing” as a highly common physiological and psychological response to sexual assault.

The victim’s lawyers claim that the girl was intimidated and are calling for a sentence of 15 to 20 years. However, the charge of sexual abuse carries a maximum sentence of 12 years.

The case, which has sparked a debate over Spain’s rape laws, has become known as the “Manada de Manresa”, or Manresa wolf pack, because of the parallels it shares with a 2016 gang attack on a teenage woman which sparked national protests and an ongoing review of the country’s rape laws. The men called themselves La Manada – “the wolf pack”.

The five men were convicted of sexual abuse but cleared of gang rape charges in December 2018 for their attack which happened during the Pamplona bull running festival in 2016.

However, last month, Spain’s Supreme Court increased their sentences from nine to 15 years, ruling they had committed rape.

This came after more than a year of heated protests against their initial less stringent conviction – with thousands of protesters descending on the streets throughout the case.

While rape must involve specific acts of violence such as being threatened with a knife or dealt physical blows under Spain’s criminal code, the case has sparked calls for changes to the law on rape and sexual abuse.

The original ruling found the 18-year-old victim’s consent was compromised when she was led into a building lobby by the men, who took turns having intercourse with her and making phone recordings of the sex acts.

Even though the judges described the woman as “stunned and unable to react,” they reached the conclusion there had been no violence or intimidation. However, the supreme court has now ruled she was simply too scared to fight back.

Figures show 2017 was the worst year on record for violence against women – 158,217 women were subjected to domestic violence, an 18 per cent year-on-year rise. Some 47 women were killed by their partners in 2018.

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