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One in four rape victims in Catalonia is under 18

Number of cases reported increases as gender violence debate heats up

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03 May 2018 12:25 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

Some 26% of women who reported incidents of rape in 2017 in Catalonia were under 18, according to new figures from the Mossos d’Esquadra police. The figure means that of the 757 cases of rape reported by women last year, almost 200 were girls.

Figures show that the number of cases reported rose by 2.2% compared with 2016 (16 extra cases) and by 24% since 2013, when 609 sexual attacks were filed.

Where cases of sexual abuse are concerned, the police figures show that 32% of victims were under-18s, from a total of 1,084 cases reported in 2017.

Talking to the Catalan News Agency (ACN), a Mossos spokesman stressed the importance of reporting incidents of rape and sexual abuse to the police. The spokesman also pointed to education, particularly among young people, as a key element in helping to prevent sexual violence.

The police figures also show that 48% of people accused of raping a woman in 2017 in Catalonia were between 17 and 33 years old, while 42% of those accused of sexual abuse were in this age range.

  • “The light sentencing of ‘the wolf pack’ attackers in Spain diminishes the severity of the violation and undermines clear obligations to uphold the rights of women"

    Purna Sen · UN Women’s Executive Coordinator

Over half (58%) of rapes were reported to have taken place inside homes, with 27% in public spaces. For cases of sexual abuse, the figures were 47% and 27%, respectively, say the figures.

In 2008, Parliament amended the law in Catalonia to recognize sexual attacks and abuse as forms of gender violence, as part of a stated effort to eradicate violence against women. According to the Mossos spokesman, the change in the legislation reflects “a European concept recognized by international bodies", which the Catalan Parliament adopted as a way of  "bringing together all forms of gender violence against women.”  

European Parliament debates ‘La Manada’ case

The issue of sexual violence in Spain was debated in the European Parliament on Wednesday. Despite objections from Spain’s ruling People's Party (PP), MEPs voted to debate the recent ‘La Manada’ (wolf pack) case in the chamber, and in particular “Spain’s application of international standards in the area of sexual violence.”

In ‘La Manada’ case, a Pamplona court acquitted five men of gang-raping an 18-year-old woman, and instead found them guilty of the lesser charge of sexual abuse.

The court decision caused outrage in Navarre, where the men were tried, and across Spain and abroad, with the international media heavily reporting the case.

The EU commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourová, said she expects the Spanish judiciary to make a "quick and fair" decision following an appeal by the prosecutor in Navarre in order for the victim to "forget [the case], if that's even possible."

The European Commissioner for Justice, Vera Jourová (by European Parliament)

"If courts do not interpret law the way it should be interpreted, and don't see rape where there is rape [...] attackers will see impunity," said Jurová.

The United Nations Women’s Executive Coordinator, Purna Sen, issued a statement on Wednesday saying: “The light sentencing of ‘the wolf pack’ attackers in Spain diminishes the severity of the violation and undermines clear obligations to uphold the rights of women. Justice must be known by women.”

‘Verneda rapist’ released from prison

As the debate on gender violence heats up in Catalonia and all across Spain, the man known as the ‘Verneda rapist’ was released from prison on Thursday after serving a 20-year sentence. Gregorio Cano left the Brians II prison in the early hours of the morning and, on the orders of the prosecutor, will remain under police surveillance as despite completing his sentence the authorities do not consider him to have reformed.

On his release, Cano told waiting reporters that rehabilitation programs “are effective if that is what you want,” adding that in his case “time will tell whether it has been effective or not.”

Cano was found guilty of 15 cases of sexual assault and two attempted attacks between February 1997 and May 1998 and sentenced to serve 167 years in prison. However, under the penal code there is a 20-year maximum sentence for the crimes he was found guilty of. Cano also had to pay his victims compensation of 50 million pesetas, in the currency of the time, now worth more than 330,000 euros.

Most of the attacks took place in public spaces, with Cano threatening women with a knife while forcing them to perform oral sex on him.

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  • A woman protesting at a rally in Barcelona against the ruling on 'La Manada' gang-rape case (by Núria Julià)

  • A woman protesting at a rally in Barcelona against the ruling on 'La Manada' gang-rape case (by Núria Julià)