As a gender violence attorney, you are not a defense attorney but you are acting as a private prosecutor. What difference there are?
Until recently, the lawyer’s function in the criminal sphere was to defend the accused of a crime. The victim of that crime did not appear in the proceedings. The prosecutor was supposed to defend his interests, despite the limitations of an official who knows little about the person. But the social situation has changed so much that, in the face of certain crimes, such as gender violence, a much more active presence of the victim is now required, which allows us to know the impact, the consequences … and that is where the private accusation enters , which defends the rights of the victim. The criminal procedure law is the same, there are articles applicable to the accused and others to the victim, each one has a specific point of view and intervenes in a different way, at other times and with other rights.
Does reporting expose the victim to more risk or protect them?
Many women fear to report, but my experience is that when the complaint occurs, in a very high percentage of cases, the violence stops because the aggressor in these crimes is a cowardly aggressor, he looks for a vulnerable victim and when he sees that protection, he recoils . It’s like in a couple, when a girl is very contested and stands up, the aggressor looks for another. Docile and submissive girls are the most vulnerable. When the entire victim protection apparatus is launched with a complaint, the violence stops there … it is a very dissuasive warning to sailors.
In cases of gender violence, the declaration of the victim is key. If they waive the right to declare, is there no case?
If I am the private prosecutor, it is difficult for that to happen because you know the person, you know how he thinks and if he is going to take that procedure to the end or not. This occurs when the victim is unassisted. It has never occurred to me that they resign at the last minute, what has happened to me is that in the previous days, the woman has proposed reaching an agreement because she has spoken with the family, because she is afraid … and in In this case, I write to the court informing the situation and sometimes the judge decides to suspend and archive the case. In any case, without a statement from the victim does not mean that there is no case, because the prosecution keeps it open ex officio once the crime is instructed. The person who has denounced is cited in the position of witness of his own crime and although he can avail himself of the right not to testify, if it is seen that there is other evidence that allows to prove what has happened without his statement, it is the prosecutor’s obligation to maintain it . Another thing is for the prosecutor to see that the evidence shows that things are not as they are raised and decides to archive the case due to lack of evidence or for indubitable pro reo.
“The victims do not want a revenge or jail for the aggressor, what they want is to end the problem, to be left alone and to forget about them”
Does the conviction of the perpetrator end the suffering of battered women?
Absolutely. A conviction never puts an end to suffering, it closes a chapter because having an open procedure causes enormous tension over time, sometimes for years. When it ends, if there is a conviction, the victim closes an important chapter, although sometimes it closes falsely. From what I see, the victims do not want revenge or jail for the aggressor, many are afraid of what may happen when they get out of prison, what they want is to end the problem, they want to be left alone and forget of them.
Is it usual that criminal proceedings have to be reconciled with other family law proceedings?
It is very common for a person with an open criminal procedure to open at the same time, sooner or later another civilian for divorce, children, execution of civil sentences … which means that the criminal part has to be carried out at the same time, with everything which involves precautionary measures, protection orders, violations … with divorce or modification of measures and enforcement of previous sentences. There are women who, had they never been in court, can have four cases open in fifteen days.
Child custody is often a source of conflict. Are there still objections to joint custody?
I have many cases of this type and the casuistry is very varied. Many women do not accept joint custody because the children are very young and they understand, sometimes for cultural reasons, that their children are better off with them and although this implies a burden and a loss of professional opportunities, they prefer to take a parenthesis in their life until that the children are older and negotiate visitation with the father. Then there is another group of women who do not accept it because during the coexistence with the father, he has not exercised that role of father correctly, he has not taken care of them or has incompatible schedules and fears that they are in the hands of other people , they prefer to have custody. Sometimes there may be covert abuse that has not been reported and that motivates this rejection. Women who do not want joint custody, who are not all by any means, just as there are many men who want it, what they do not like is that it is an imposition. In the end, the court studies the case and sometimes says yes and sometimes no.
“The separations are a war and all available weapons are used, the children too. Sometimes they are used in good faith. Each case is different “
Are children used a lot as a throwing weapon in separations?
The separations are a war and all available weapons are used, the children too. Professionals try not to use them because the good of the minor should come first, but that is an abstract concept. For a mother, the good of the child may be that her child is under her wing. Sometimes they are used in good faith because there is no advice. Each case is different, you cannot generalize.
A few weeks ago, an investigation carried out by the Association of Women Jurists Themis, to which she belongs, revealed that a third of the sentences do not withdraw parental authority from rapist parents. For what is this?
I have not participated in the investigation, but from my experience, I can say that it is true, although what happens is that many times it is not requested, because the aggressor enters prison. The problem occurs when the father is released from prison and has the capacity to decide on the minor who has been the victim of sexual assault and it is terrible.
Is the perception that there are more and more sexual assaults true?
I do not notice more, what there is is a greater social reaction to the media cases that have occurred. I have run a program since 2002 through an association for the defense of victims of sexual assault and I have taken many trials, from the most minor to the largest, and what I see is that many studies are needed. It is a phenomenon that only has in common with the abuse that the victim is mostly a woman, not always, and the aggressor, a man, but it has many nuances. It is not the same as a sexual assault in the family environment, which is the most frequent, to abuse in an environment with violence on the street or a group rape. There are many differences and different consequences. Information is missing despite being a crime that carries a great stigma. The raped girl does not want to report, thinks that they will not believe her or intuits that the judicial procedure will be torture, that is to live it, she suffers a lot and the victim is very vulnerable.
You have said that you do not defend alleged rapists or assailants. Have you never been interested in knowing the other side?
In trials, I already see the other point of view and how the facts can have different explanations, but I prefer, for my own mental health, to do my job in the procedural position of defense of the rights of the victim. I feel more comfortable and I think it is more coherent to do so, my clients would not understand that one day I defended a victim and the next day an abuser.
“There is also a form of suffering when the child hears that his mother is mistreated, hears screams, knocks on the doors …”
The confinement raised the fear of a rise in mistreatment taking advantage of the isolation of the victims. Has it been so?
During the pandemic, I believe that there has been a hiatus in every sense, I have not received more cases of aggression, but what I have noticed is that afterwards there has been a rebound in women who have considered their lives in that Time to stop and they have decided not to take it anymore and get divorced. As of the summer, more cases have arrived, but through civil, not criminal, channels.
The Cordoba City Council’s campaign for the 25th of this year, which carried the slogan ‘I don’t want to be like my dad’, has caused a lot of stir. What did you think of it?
What is blamed on the campaign is that it does not say that this slogan refers to abusive men and seems to be directed at all men, but advertisers have explained that this is implicit in the context. The problem is that we have very thin skin. The issue is highly politicized. What seems good to me is that the campaign is aimed at children and I believe that the suffering of minors in these cases must be made more visible.
43% of the victims protected by the Viogen plan have minors in their care. Is work being done to prevent children from playing those roles in adulthood?
I do not think so. If the whole issue of women is costing so much, despite the fact that we have pioneering legislation, the issue of childhood is still a pending issue because many violent attitudes of parents towards their children continue to be justified, corrections in the form of bad treatment, lock the child in a room … There is also a form of suffering when the child sees that his mother is mistreated, hears screams, knocks on the doors … If they are young, they are scared to death and want the mother to protect them and that it is a trigger for them to report. The risk is that the violence continues and the children reach adolescence, because the adolescent tends to imitate the roles that they have seen at home. If the father hits two voices and gets what he wants, the child will do the same with his partners and sometimes with the mother. And if it is difficult to get out of the violence of a partner, that of a child is much worse. That is why children must be re-educated to prevent these attitudes.
On the subject of false complaints, has such a case ever come to you?
No, what does happen is that … each person’s limits are different. There are women who do not want to report in very serious circumstances and others who want to do it for very small things and I tell them that there are things that are not reportable. Your husband telling you that he is going to ask for custody of your child is not a threat, it is a right he has. We must distinguish between mistreatment and bad vibes. When a couple divorces there is a lot of bad vibes, but that is not bad treatment.