The nightmare of 'the herds' returns

The nightmare of 'the herds' returns

Concentration in Miranda de Ebro against the liberation of the members of La Manada de los sanfermines. / AVELINO GOMEZ

The absence of true sex education and early access to pornography explain the outbreak of gang rapes in just a few days

Antonio Paniagua

It was believed that the La Manada case had exacerbated social rejection of gang rape. We were not vaccinated, but at least we were somewhat more aware of the phenomenon of chain sexual assaults. However, the sudden emergence in a few days of cases in Burjassot (Valencia), Pulpí (Almería) or Vila-real (Castellón) contradicts this perception. The bad dream of 'the herds' returns, although in reality they never left.

The few studies that exist on the subject speak of common patterns in this type of attack. They usually take place at night on weekends or on holidays. These violations are closely linked to leisure and party spaces. In the alleged multiple assault in Vila-real, for example, the events occurred at dawn during the Sant Pasqual festivities. Between 50% and 60% of the cases the victims are between 18 and 35 years old. It is the crime in which there is more similarity in age between the aggressor and the victim. In addition, it happens as the age of the attackers decreases, the size of the group increases.

“We have to ask ourselves why sexuality has become a taboo. Parents have not talked to their children about the body»


What is striking about these gang rapes is the involvement of adolescents. Some studies already anticipated a latent trend that seems to be rearing its head. «A report of ours that had a lot of impact already revealed it. Thus, the sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by two or more people against a single victim in the last decade has gone from 2.1% to 10.5% in 2018. We have observed new trends. There are not only abuses of adults against minors, but also between equals, with the peculiarity of the aggressors, they have seen a lot of pornography, "says Diana Díaz, argues the director of Help Lines of the ANAR Foundation.

woman's subjugation

The internet age, mobile phones and social networks have made pornography an omnipresent, unlimited and free activity. So much so that Díaz puts the age at which children start accessing pornographic content at ten or eleven years, images that almost always subject women to a submissive relationship. The disturbing thing is that children are building their sexual desire on unreal foundations and based on inequality and the submission of women to men. “We have to ask ourselves why sexuality has become a taboo. Parents have not had that necessary conversation with their children to talk about their body and what it means. We have to warn children in a calm way and through affective-sexual education that the body belongs only to them”, says Díaz.

In some cases, such as in Burjassot and Vila-real, minors have been released under precautionary measures. The president of the Independent Judicial Forum, Fernando Portillo, believes that the judges must have considered that this decision would not destroy evidence or reoffend. "I don't know the reasons, but in any case the social alarm was eliminated many years ago from the Law of Criminal Procedure to decide the deprivation of liberty," says Portillo. The experts consulted argue that the provisional release of those involved in the Malagueta case due to an alleged group attack is not a reason to engage in denial attitudes, and they insist that false complaints are few.

Neither the State Attorney General's Office nor the Ministry of the Interior have disaggregated data on gang rapes. Statistics from the department headed by Fernando Grande-Marlaska indicate that 17,016 crimes against sexual freedom and indemnity were committed in 2021, the highest number in the historical series, which dates back to 2013. The Interior authorities believe that there is now a greater willingness to report these crimes. Some light is shed by the Geoviolencia Sexual portal, directed by Graciela Atencio, who compiles these attacks from the cases published in the press. In the period between 2016 and 2021, 274 multiple attacks were committed. The years with the most cases were 2018 and 2019, with 67 and 87 cases, respectively.

Despite the fact that more cases come to light, the law of silence still prevails. Only 8% of women who were sexually assaulted outside of their relationship reported their attacker, according to the 2019 Violence Against Women Macro-survey.

armed conflicts

The role of pornography as a driver of group sexual assault is relativized by Bárbara Tardón, an expert in sexual violence and advisor to the Ministry of Equality. «When there was no pornography, sexual assaults also occurred in armed contexts and conflicts. Women are gang raped not only because there is porn, but because there is a differentiated socialization through a macho ideology that disciplines them and their sexual freedom since the beginning of time.

For Jesús de la Torre Laso, professor of Psychology at the University of Salamanca, author of an investigation on the matter, it is common for sexual aggressors to deny their responsibility and the damage inflicted. Thus, the attacker “uses the information to interpret an event and make a causal judgment. In these situations, the aggressor appears as the victim and the victim as the person responsible for the aggression. For example, they may think that the event occurred because they were drunk.

«Women are gang raped not only because there is porn, but because the macho ideology disciplines their sexual freedom»

late barbara. Expert in sexual violence

To the poor sexual education, both in the family and at school, is added the fact that a party like Vox, with representatives in the Government of Castilla y León, denies any sexual education that involves "indoctrination". «On top of that, there are formations that not only think that we should not talk about sexuality, but also encourage the veto of parents through the 'parental pin'. Either we talk to the kids about what sexual freedom and consent are, or sexual violence is going to continue to occur », predicts Bárbara Tardón.

One of the great unknowns is whether 'herds' generate a contagion effect. For the spokeswoman for the Association of Judges for Democracy (JyJD), Ascensión Martín, with 15 years of experience as a juvenile magistrate, young people incur in “mimicry. The same thing happens with suicide. In her understanding, in group aggressions, there are seasonal elements that influence the appearance of these crimes. Judging by data from the Sexual Geoviolence website, half of the cases are registered between May and September.

Portillo argues that for now these attacks are reflected more in the police than in the judicial sphere. The judge thinks that "committing a crime alone guarantees a certain impunity." «On the other hand, the minor, acting in a group, reveals a more reckless character. There is a daring that can be typical of age; since there are several aggressors, there is a danger that some will reveal the identity of the others », he points out.

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