The Supreme confirms the six-month sanction of a lieutenant colonel who harassed a subordinate for years

The Supreme Court has confirmed a sanction of half a year of suspension for a lieutenant colonel of the Army for harassing a subordinate for several years in the maneuvering and shooting range of the Lugo town of Parga. The military chamber has rejected the appeal against her sanction, imposed for beginning to harm this soldier after trying to maintain an intimate relationship with her.

This case of harassment within the Armed Forces was uncovered by in March of this year. The convicted lieutenant colonel was at the time head of the Parga shooting and maneuvering range and met the soldier in 2012, when he joined the unit. Her relationship, according to the courts, was "professional" until, five years later, the soldier separated from her partner after filing a complaint for psychological abuse.

At that time the relationship was closer, forming part of the same group of friends, and that's when the lieutenant colonel tried an intimate approach to his subordinate through calls and messages. "Conversations lasting more than 30 minutes, which although they began with professional issues, always led to personal issues," the sentences in the case explain. Messages also in which he hinted at his intention to seek a sentimental rapprochement between the two. An "excessive" relationship of affection, according to the sentence, in which the lieutenant colonel also established physical contact when they were alone "grabbing his arm, touching his hair, the nape of his neck or his back, the soldier revealing her discomfort with said physical approach.

These messages and calls initially overlapped with licenses granted by the superior, for example so that the soldier could take care of her young children, but it turned into hostility when, two years later, she began a relationship with another soldier. In 2019, the Supreme Court declares firmly proven, the lieutenant colonel began directing actions towards the soldier that "attacked her privacy and dignity, and influenced both her private and professional life, affecting her conduct and behavior ".

For example, there was harassment on several occasions when she was on sick leave or when she was being transferred to the hospital. In her own home during her convalescence, and in the presence of other people, she even said that she was not sick but that she was "crazy". She withdrew the privileges previously granted to her, which allowed her to reconcile professional life with the care of her children, and ordered the woman to "seek life". She also began to control who entered and left her house.

One of the last episodes of this harassment took place in May 2019, when the soldier offered to help a girl who had been found unwell on a school trip that passed near her home. The director of the center, who refused her help, received a visit from the lieutenant colonel at the school shortly after, without an appointment and requesting information about what had happened. He went on to say that he was investigating whether the soldier had denied her help to a little girl.

The complaint for harassment came a few weeks after that last episode and his sanction came in October 2020: six months of employment suspension for a very serious offense consisting of "performing acts that imply sexual harassment" to a subordinate. The sanction, as this newspaper revealed, was ratified by a military court and has now been declared final by the fifth chamber of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, with José Alberto Fernández as rapporteur, endorses the sentence that confirmed his sanction. He understands that the account he makes is "wise, coherent and detailed" and that he has numerous pieces of evidence in addition to the victim's own account. For example, the colonel who heard his complaint for the first time, the director of the school to which the accused went to obtain information about the soldier, and finally another military partner of the victim at that time.

It was he who ratified some of these episodes, while other military witnesses explained that they had not seen any kind of rapprochement between the two. The defendant limited himself to denying everything, but the judges also had on the table the report of the lieutenant colonel psychologist who examined the soldier after the complaint: "She is a vulnerable woman who must be protected, she presents numerous and well-known symptoms of anxiety overlapping with some depressants," the report explained.

She told the psychologist about the consequences of sexual harassment: insomnia, tiredness, fear of possible reprisals against her and her partner, and a "feeling of guilt for not knowing how to stop the lieutenant colonel's attitude from the beginning." The soldier explained that her cordiality could have created "confusion" in her superior.

The story of the sanctioned lieutenant colonel was different and is not taken into account by the judges of the fifth court. He argued that he lost professional confidence in the soldier because, despite the favorable treatment he was given to reconcile his family life, he took days off without his authorization and boasted of merits that did not correspond to him. The judges discard the exculpatory version of him and explain that it is normal that many of the witnesses did not see the acts of harassment suffered by the victim: "It is logical due to the very nature of the conduct," says the Supreme Court.

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