“Paco hit, stabbed and slaughtered his partner and then lived with the body.” “José Arellano suffocated his wife and later simulated a robbery.” “Iván Pardo Peña tortured his eight-year-old niece for twelve hours.” They are only three photo captions of the more than 50 snapshots that Jesús Montañana took in 2017, when he proposed to travel throughout Spain in his van to investigate the places where homicides were committed due to sexist violence.
Complaints for sexist violence register the largest drop in the historical series: 10% in the first quarter
The project What is not seen, awarded a scholarship at the Albarracín Photography and Journalism Seminar by DKV Seguros in 2018, He is now exhibiting at the Madrid School of Photography and Cinema (EFTI) until next October 3. It proposes a painful but necessary journey through apparently common and insignificant places, such as parks, factories or rooms, which were actually the scenes of a social problem that has always existed and which has yet to see an end: sexist murders.
“These places are intimately linked to a murderer who committed terrible deeds. If we went through these scenarios and we knew what happened there, perhaps we would all have a collective conscience and a special awareness about this,” Jesús Montañana explains to eldiario.es, who he wanted to focus “on the murderer and the act he had committed, not on how many relatives the victim had or how many hours he was dying.”
The photographer says that the idea came to him one day while he was watching the news and he found out how a murder had occurred about 100 kilometers from where he lived. “So I thought, ‘What if I photograph these empty places?’ If I put them all together, I could tell the tragedy in a more responsible way. That’s how it occurred to me and I started, “he recalls.
What followed were seven months traveling through different parts of the country to capture these scenarios. “Few provinces were left that year without having murders due to sexist violence,” says Montañana. And it is that, according to the annual statistical bulletin presented in 2017 by the Government, the number of women murdered that period reached 51.
However, the reporter ended up including others that the State does not consider official because they do not fall into the category of “gender violence”, which understands that for violence to be exercised there must be an emotional relationship. “I added other cases that I did consider were sexist homicides, such as the murder of some prostitutes or of a girl who did not know his attacker,” says the reporter.
Machismo and the spiral of silence
But sometimes it wasn’t as easy as walking to the scene and pulling the trigger. Montañana had to investigate each case and learn the story before determining which snapshot could best represent what had happened. “Maybe the crime had been committed at home, but then the murderer had thrown it in a river and the body had been found in another place. So maybe there I was more interested in the photo of the river,” she says.
In addition, the project had another added difficulty: silence. “Many murders of sexist violence are condemned on television and are quite high in the media, at least on the same day they occurred, but after that a silence is generated around it, as if they wanted to forget in some way,” explains the author.
For this reason, the photographer had to contrive to gain the trust of the neighbors who were often the ones who opened the doors of their homes. In fact, he remembers a case in a small village in Galicia that consisted of finding the place where a father had killed his son on Mother’s Day, a fact that it is also considered sexist violence.
“I remember an older man who wanted to help me while the woman did not, and there they began to argue in front of me. In the end the man took me walking through the fern forest to a place that I would never have found alone. He guided me to the The same place where the murderer tried to bury his son after hitting him on the head with a shovel. But in the end he could not and left the body lying in the forest, “says the photographer.
Dealing with the cruelty of certain stories wasn’t easy either. Montañana says that in one of the scenarios a father had cut her daughter’s throat and was discovered by her roommates in the bathroom, while she was washing her hands. “The point is that when I was in the house I asked to go to the bathroom and, when I looked in the mirror, somehow the image of the murderer came to me in that same place after she had killed her daughter. And well,.
Although the images that run through the exhibition are from 2017, the problem is still very present. Moreover, the confinement and the “new normal” have aggravated the situation of those who live with their abuser. Complaints of sexist violence during the first quarter of 2020 have registered the lowest figure in almost four years (36,185), but this does not mean that it did not exist.
According to this newspaper Ángeles Carmona, president of the Observatory against Domestic and Gender Violence of the CGPJ, this drop in complaints “demonstrates the dramatic situation that many women have had to live as a result of the confinement”, on many occasions “together with his abuser at home, where criminal acts usually occur “. What does increase are the calls and inquiries from women to 016, the state telephone service for victims of sexist violence. Requests for help increased by 45% since the beginning of the confinement and, according to the latest government data, have continued to do so during the summer months in similar figures.
“The problem with violence is that before I did not leave the house and it was not counted. Now society has learned to denounce it, but if we go back inside the house women have it a bit complicated, because how can they protect themselves from a person they are always accompanying and for whom they feel threatened “, Montañana appreciates. Because, as the photographer adds, “if personal situations get complicated this translates into social problems, including sexist violence.”