LN – “Sure it was like that?”: A system that leads rape victims to shut up


The Inconceivable series exposed the pain that assaulted women go through, having to relive what happened several times and be questioned; in the country, they estimate that almost 90% decide not to report Credit: Shutterstock

“At the Women's Police Station they treated me very badly. I was incommunicado. They told me they were going to ask me what happened to see if I was telling the truth. I couldn't talk to my parents. Four policemen came to ask me the same thing and when they I said how many more times they were going to do it, they responded that they wanted to know if I was lying. ” This was reported by Agustina R. in front of a Rosario Court in February of this year. She and 17 other victims, aged 14 to 24, were sexually abused by Luis Marcelo Escobar, between 2014 and 2016. With all of them she had the same
modus operandi: He approached them with the same lie, used the same words and made the same threats; He led them to the field and followed each step, like a sinister ritual that left them hurt forever.

With much anguish, Agustina went to make the complaint and did not know that another hell was waiting for her there:
“They didn't offer me a glass of water. They checked me out and took samples. Later, we went to the scene with a police officer and my mother. I showed him where he went, but it was already daylight and he couldn't indicate where I ran after. Then, the police told me 'try to remember you because otherwise we take it as false' “. So he remembered, in a broken voice, in front of the rapist who was watching her from his podium.

Beyond the similarities with the series

Inconceivable – completed by streaming a few weeks ago and recounting the ordeal that an 18-year-old girl lives after a rape – Agustina's story is far from being a fiction. His case reflects why the majority of women who experience sexual violence in Argentina prefer to shut up.
According to the National Victimization Survey, published in 2018 by the Ministry of Security, 87.4% do not make a complaint. Some of the reasons are the revictimization to which they are exposed, the pain of having to relive the story, stating again and again; the exposure of his intimacy, the feeling that nothing will repair his wound, the feeling that he constantly questions his testimonies and blames them for what happened.

But not all steps are false. After the public denunciations within the framework of #NiUnaMenos and #MeToo, more women began to speak and recognize as abuse situations that they had previously normalized.
In 2016, in Argentina there were 12,424 complaints for crimes against sexual integrity (3579 correspond to rapes), while in 2018 there were 16,298 (4141 for rapes), according to data published recently by the Fiscal Unit Specialized in Violence against Women. The study also reflects that the average sentence reaches 15% of cases.

In addition, many support systems emerged for victims who are gaining greater confidence in women experiencing this trauma, along with gender-sensitive training for public officials in all provinces.

The main complaint of the victims is the lack of active listening. Their testimonies are always in doubt, they are assessed, and they are charged with the responsibility of the crime they suffered. How they were dressed, why they were alone, what they were doing at that time or why they had drunk alcohol, are some of the questions.

Unlike the protagonist of the North American series, who recants her complaint about the pressure of the system, Agustina met with a prosecutor who was determined to listen to her and investigate thoroughly. The Sexual Offenses Tax Unit of the city of Rosario addressed the facts with a gender perspective, took testimony from the complainants and, in an exemplary oral and public trial, the Justice sentenced the abuser to 48 years in prison.

When I saw the series, I was struck by the coincidence of the testimonies of the victims as well as the behavior of the perpetrator with the case I investigated. Everywhere in the world is the same. In Argentina we have a very good framework of laws and there are many advances, but if there is no gender perspective in the people who work with the victims, you cannot move forward, “explains prosecutor Carla Cerliani, in charge of the case. And It details that it is necessary to “understand what are the processes of the women who live these facts” in order to also understand “what is happening to them inside”.

According to the National Victimization Survey, published in 2018 by the Ministry of Security, 87.4% of victims do not report.
According to the National Victimization Survey, published in 2018 by the Ministry of Security, 87.4% of victims do not report. Credit: Shutterstock

The main complaint of the victims is the lack of active listening. Their testimonies are always in doubt, they are assessed, and they are charged with the responsibility of the crime they suffered. How they were dressed, why they were alone, what they were doing at that time or why they had drunk alcohol, are some of the questions. “The credibility of women is put on trial at all times. Withdrawal works as an evasion mechanism for people who have been revictimized. Therefore, interdisciplinary accompaniment is important so that the transit through this criminal process is an instance of reparation, “explains Ileana Arduino, lawyer, coordinator of the Institute for Comparative Studies in Criminal and Social Sciences (Inecip).

According to a study by the Public Prosecutor's Office, in 2018 24% of 158 cases of sexual violence were retracted. The criminal legislation does not contemplate the figure of the withdrawal of the complainant against the denounced fact, but it is accepted in the judicial cases on gender violence, which implies closing the file.

“Justice is very sexist. Unlike any other crime, the defendant is immediately notified of the complaint, who many times is closely related to the victim. These situations sometimes end in femicide,” said Mabel Bianco, president of the Foundation for the Study and Research of Women (FEIM). In addition, he details that many “raise their complaints for fear, lack of money or fault.”

The danger at home

“Many nights, although I didn't feel like it, I forced myself violently to do it and I didn't realize at the time that it was abuse. I ended up saying yes because I said I had to do it, that was his wife for that. ' Look how I am, look how you wear me, you can't leave me like that, 'he yelled at me. “ What Laura (29 years old) says – her name was changed to protect her identity – was repeated night after night for a long time. One day, a struggle, the screams and fatigue were the triggers to make the complaint and she also found the distrust of those who listened, even more knowing that the victimizer was her husband.

“Are you sure it's not an occasional fight ?; isn't it a matter of jealousy ?; won't you be taking revenge for some cane in the air?” It was the questions he received from the police. The threats of his partner, with whom he continued to live; The economic need, guilt and confusion over how naturalized this was in her social and family environment (her own mother disagreed) caused Laura to retract and the cause closed.

In this regard, Natalia Figueroa, national director of Assistance to Victims of the Ministry of Justice of the Nation, clarifies:
“Rapes occur mostly in the domestic sphere (60%). This idea of ​​the violation of 'the girl with a short skirt' is of a smaller proportion. Women are at greater risk within their own homes.”

Ana (39) is another of the many victims who preferred not to go to justice after being raped during a robbery at home. At that time he was 24, and a group of thieves entered his apartment, taking advantage of a friend coming from her. While two stirred everything, one took her to the bathroom and raped her. “No matter how much time I spend, I will never be able to get that image out of my head,” he recalls. When those minutes “that were centuries” passed, the first thing he did was call his family, while the police arrived.

He begged his friend not to say anything. He settled as he could, he had no visible wounds. The only one who told her at that time was her sister, who had a medical friend and took her to an office where she received all the necessary prophylaxis and indicated the medical steps to follow. “But all without making the complaint, I didn't want to be checked, I didn't want to tell anyone. Why? If nothing was going to happen.” Today, after more than 10 years, he believes that it is different, that you don't have to shut up, that you always have to report, and most importantly, “Don't face it alone”.

Inés Hercovich is a sociologist and social psychologist and has thoroughly studied this topic. When asked about the silence of women after sexual assault, she reflects:
“Why don't the victims make the complaint? Because they can't find who really listens to them. Why don't they listen to them? Looking for this answer, I found that the judges are macho, doctors are on two sides and psychologists are victimizers. “

All victims of sexual violence describe their lives later with almost the same words: fear, insomnia, depression. Some leave their jobs, suffer panic attacks and even addictions. “Before, I had a lot of friends. Now I just want to be with my family. If a man approaches me on the street, I panic. If a policeman approaches, I want to run away. I can't sleep thinking that he will appear. I want no one else to pass. I think that thanks to me, other girls are talking, “Agustina finished her testimony, without stopping to cry. The condemnation of her assailant gave her peace of mind, but she will still need a lot of time to be the girl she dreamed of again.

The State facing the challenge of training and responding with a gender perspective

As of this year, line 137, of attention to victims of family violence, operates at national level: it can be called from anywhere in the country and is the fastest and most effective way to request assistance in cases of sexual violence. It depends on the Ministry of Justice of the Nation and was inaugurated in 2006, within the framework of the “Victims Against Violence” program, coordinated by Eva Giberti. He is in charge of an interdisciplinary team of psychologists, social workers and lawyers who advise the victim and his family. Between 2016 and 2019, the telephone lines registered 9649 complaints of sexual violence.

“Before, a victim of abuse went through three or four examinations. The legist doctor checked her at the police station. In the hospital, they checked her again. And if the Court considered that she was not serving, the coroner made another review. From this program, we get it checked only once, in the public hospital, so as not to be revictimized, “explains Carina Rago, program advisor.

If the crime occurs in CABA, a mobile team moves to the scene and accompanies the woman in all instances. The professionals write a report that will then be part of the judicial process that will be opened and in which they will also participate as witnesses. If it occurs in any other part of the country, the person who answers the call immediately contacts the intervening agencies of the corresponding jurisdiction and advises the victim or his family in all the steps to follow.

Julia, 18, is one of the many women who reported a case of abuse to line 137. “I approached the doctor's office for a gynecological consultation. When I entered, the doctor who attended me greeted me with a kiss and told me to make myself comfortable, not to be nervous, that it was nothing and until, if I wanted, the It was going to be good. It was my first visit to the gynecologist, so I didn't know what the usual forms of treatment were like, “she recalls.

And he continues: “I lay on the couch and he checked me. Then, he put his face very close to mine. He was breathing hard. He felt my breasts oddly. I became very tense, I didn't know what to do. He touched me for out of the tail and then with my fingers. Then he asked me if I wanted to have sex with him. At that moment I started crying, I asked him to leave me. I don't know if I fell or pulled on the stretcher, but he released me When I got out of there, I ran to my cousin, I didn't know where to go. I was disoriented, dazed, like lost. I had an arm with bruises from the fall, it hurt a lot. She held me back and made the complaint ” .

Action protocols

Hospitals, schools and police stations handle a protocol of care for victims of sexual violence and are aimed at working in a coordinated manner. The police stations in the city of Buenos Aires have a Gender Unit, and those in the province of Buenos Aires and other cities in the interior, with a Women's Police Station in each district. The provinces apply their own programs and differ from each other.

“I prefer that, instead of a Women's Police Station, each police station in each locality of the country has its Gender Unit, with people trained to act in coordination with the agencies. In this situation of trauma and confusion, people resort to police station he knows, “explains Liliana Rubino, gender superintendent of the City Police.

Natalia Gherardi, director of the Latin American Justice and Gender Team, which provides guidance to victims, believes that the Argentine legal framework is very good but that it finds problems in the distance between law and practice. “The arbitrariness with which it is applied is very large and is different in each region of the country. Federalization cannot be an excuse to unprotect women,” he says.

The Micaela law seeks to reach all the provinces of the country with training for officials of the three powers

Although the National State ratified international treaties and is governed by Law 26,485 of Comprehensive Protection to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women, the federal system allows each jurisdiction to have its own legal and judicial system to address the crimes of sexual violence Therefore, training and training in a gender perspective in all operators involved in cases of sexual violence is essential, because they are ordinary crimes that depend on the provincial jurisdiction.

The Micaela Law (No. 27499), promulgated in January of this year, establishes mandatory training in gender and violence against women for people who work in public service, at all levels and hierarchies, in Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of the Nation.

“It is planned to train 30,000 agents of the National Executive Power, including the President and his ministers, through virtual courses that are opened every 15 days, from the beginning of 2019. In the other powers, mandatory courses are being initiated”, explains Fabiana Tuñez, director of the National Women's Institute (INAM).

In order to measure the impact there is a pre-training evaluation and another at the end. “The opinions that are collected coincide, in general, in an awareness about ideas and prejudices that were naturalized and that this formation deconstructs,” says Tuñez. And he adds: “In the Judicial Power it is where it costs us the most, but we trust that, little by little, we will achieve this cultural change that will take a long time.”

There are deadlines for compliance with the training and the law provides penalties for those who do not. On the INAM website there are guides and information that also apply to companies and private organizations. Already 12 provinces adhered to the law and the rest are in the process of adapting their legislation.

The specialists emphasize that the gender perspective is a cultural change that demands a national commitment and that is why its application is indispensable.

Where to report


. (tagsToTranslate) “Was it safe like this?”: a system that leads rape victims to shut up – LA NACION

Publicado en el diario La Nación