Shattering the Silence and Standing Up: A Case Analysis of La Manada Rape Trial

By Madison Streb

*This article has been formatted as an interactive piece in which various news outlets are hyperlinked throughout as a direct demonstration to the reader of the ways in which each news outlet chose to report La Manada.

 

In July 2016, during the San Fermines (Running of the Bulls) festival in Pamplona, Spain, an 18-year-old girl was gang raped by a group of five men ages 27-29. The case is known as La Manada or “the wolf pack” in English. This title came from the group chat name used by the five men prior to the assault. In this group chat facilitated through WhatsApp, the men had texted one another during the days leading up to the festival; these discussions included explicit talk of bringing drugs and other items to complete rape during the festivities. The girl had met the men for the first time that day at the festival, and the attack occurred that evening. Two of the accused recorded 96 seconds of video footage during the attack and dispersed the video in the group chat the next morning bragging about the incident. In the video, the victim’s eyes remained closed and her physical behavior was unengaged as the men took turns penetrating her, and did so simultaneously at various points. Once they had finished raping the girl, the men took her cell phone and left the scene. She was found crying on a bench and asked a couple sitting nearby to use their phone to call the police.

In November 2017, the case went to trial in the Spanish courts. Public outrage began when the judge allowed “evidence” into the defense team’s presentation that was collected by a private investigator hired by the defense lawyer. The PI followed the victim one weekend after the attack, analyzed her social media posts, and even retrieved security camera footage of her residence. He concluded that her behavior did not align with someone who had been raped. However, the police that aided her right after the attack testified and said the victim did not appear to be “faking” anything. As the trial was going on, feminist groups and other persons stood outside the courthouse and protested the judge’s decision to allow the PI’s report to be presented as evidence. Finally, on the last day of the trial, the PI report was rescinded. Although, an Instagram photo that the victim had shared on her account remained in evidence.

*Photo credit elpaís.com. Carlos Bacaicoa, the lawyer for the victim in the case. Julián Rojas

The admittance of the private investigator’s report as evidence in the case was the primary source of anger. The stereotyped image of a rape victim was an important component that the defense team sought to manipulate to prove that the rape had in fact been consensual group-sex. Using a PI to “prove” the victim’s lack of trauma speaks to the repeated abuse of women in society when it comes to sexual assault, and the following acceptance of this report into the trial evidence only confirms the acceptability of this abuse from an institutional level. Jackson Katz in “It Takes a Village to Rape a Woman” highlights this problem that no matter how women choose to act, it can be used against them in a society that promote sexually violent values. For instance, if a woman is a virgin, then she is a prude, but if she is sexually active, then she is labeled as a whore or slut. When the victim chose to go out with her friends in the following weeks after the attack, her behavior was taken as proof that she suffered no trauma and that the rape did not occur. But if her perspective was consider for even a moment, it might be realized that her decision to continue living her life after the assault was an act of strength and her absolute right that should not be taken away or called into question.

Additional aspects of the trial were also sparked controversy, including the victim’s questioning and decision to allow the accused to speak at the end of the trial. In his book, Unwanted Sex: The Crime of Intimidation and the Failure of Law, Stephen Schulhofer details the problems that victim’s face when bringing cases of sexual assault to the criminal justice system. While his work is written in the context of the U.S. legal system, many of the tribulations that Schulhofer discusses are blatantly observed in La Manada proceedings and were used as a basis for the feminist backlash in Spain. One of the points that Schulhofer emphasizes is the idea that in cases of sexual assault, a woman saying “no” is not enough to prove her non-consent. In this incident, the defense team suggested that the victim would have done something more violent, specifically “biting their penises,” had it been a true case of rape. As mentioned earlier, the video footage of the assault showed the victim in a passive role with eyes shut during the attack. Instead of focusing on the lack of consent present, the victim was questioned as to why she did not do more to stop the attack. Considering the circumstances, five men against one woman, it is unlikely that they would have stopped the assault regardless of her actions. In that moment, she did what she thought would get her out alive. Schulhofer makes another point that often times laws regarding rape are considered from the rapist’s perspective as opposed to the victim’s. In an incident that seems out of the ordinary for Spanish courts, the five defendants were allowed to give their statements after all the evidence had been presented at the end of the trial. This decision made by the judge allowed them the upper hand in gaining the court’s favor and refuting any and all information that was presented up until that point. Instead of asking why these men had raped a young woman in a doorway at a festival, the courts focused on why the victim had not done more to stop the attack, and ultimately gave the attackers the final say.

In lieu of these analyses, it is not shocking that civil rights and feminist groups came out in protest to support the victim. The public outrage and media coverage of La Manada has shown widespread disapproval of rape trial tactics and is partly to thank for the course of the case. Throughout the duration of the trial, men and women alike took to the streets shouting slogans such as “No means no,” “Try the accused, not the victim,” and “We believe you, sister.” This widespread response to La Manada trial grabbed international attention and was reported in news outlets all over the world. The feminist perspective and frustrations with the case, detailed above, were reported in The Guardian, BBC, Sur, The Local, El Salto, and El País, just to name a few. The inclusion of these controversies was important in inciting further criticism of the defense team’s tactics and ultimately pressuring the defense lawyers to rescind the report of the private investigator from trial evidence.

So often it is easy to feel defeated when progress in feminist reform seems slow, especially when the work is endless. When it comes to sexual assault and legal reform there is much room for critical analysis and improvement. But La Manada demonstrates our voices can be heard when weshow up and speak out. With the help of adequate news coverage, social problems may be exposed, discussed, and eventually addressed, in ways that would have never occurred had they remained on the streets in front of the courthouse in Spain.

Photo credit dw.com. Third day of protest following La Manada acquittal.

Post Article Update: The sentencing has finally been released for La Manada trial as of April 29, 2018. The five men accused were acquitted of sexual assault (rape), plead down to a lesser charge of sexual abuse, and sentenced to nine years in prison. The case turnout was devastating for the victim, as well as advocates standing with her who had hoped for a breakthrough case to signal cultural reform. Further critiques beyond the scope of this analysis are required to fully comprehend the malfunctions, which are not unique, of the justice system in this rape case. It would also be effective to look into the culture and environment of the Running of the Bulls festival, as many reports of sex crimes occur in Pamplona during the celebration. As more is published on the outcome of La Manada, the hope is that criticism will continue, as it did throughout the duration of the case, and compel Spanish lawmakers to stand up against the outdated laws that regulate sexual assault charges.

 

References

Badcock, James. “Pamplona ‘wolf pack’ gang rape trial angers Spain.” BBC News Nov. 28, 2017. Available online at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42149912

Burgen, Stephen. “Anger over treatment of alleged victim at Pamplona gang-rape trial.” The Guardian Nov. 29, 2017. Available online at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/29/verdict-due-in-trial-of-fi...

Doria, Javier. “Court to hear closing arguments in Pamplona gang rape trial.” El País Nov. 27, 2017. Available online at https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/11/27/inenglish/1511778569_875046.html

Doria, Javier. “Judge in Sanfermines rape case accepts private detective report on victim.” El País Nov. 16, 2017. Available online at https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/11/16/inenglish/1510829073_356805.html?re...

Doria, Javier. “Lawyers in San Fermín rape trial withdraw controversial detective report.” El País Nov. 23, 2017. Available online at https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/11/23/inenglish/1511448518_599163.html?re...

Erickson, Amanda. “A woman was sexually assaulted by 5 men. A Spanish court says it’s not rape.” The Washington Post Apr. 29, 2018. Available online at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/04/29/a-woman-was...

“Five on trial in Pamplona in high-profile San Fermín festival rape case.” Sur Nov. 27, 2017. Available online at http://www.surinenglish.com/national/201711/24/five-trial-pamplona-high-...

García, Ter. “‘Hermana, yo sí te creo’: el movimiento feminist vuelve a tomar las calles.” El Salto Nov. 17, 2017. Available online at https://www.elsaltodiario.com/feminismos/concentracion-madrid-juicio-manada

Jabois, Manuel. “Pamplona gang rape victim: ‘Don’t leave me alone, please.’” El País Nov. 28, 2017. Available online at https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/11/28/inenglish/1511867397_302207.html

Katz, Jackson. “It Takes a Village to Rape a Woman.” Chapter 9 in The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2006.

“Pamplona festival ‘wolf pack’ rape trial comes to an end.” The Local Nov. 29, 2017. Available online at https://www.thelocal.es/20171129/pamplona-festival-gang-rape-trial

Schulhofer, Stephen J. “Unchecked Abuses.” Chapter 1 in Unwanted Sex: The Crime of Intimidation and the Failure of Law. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998.