The viacrucis of María Salmerón: about to enter the prison from which the man who mistreated her was spared

"It's not violence, it's institutional torture," says María Salmerón at the gates of Congress. If nothing prevents it, the woman will enter prison soon after being convicted of breaching the visitation regime of her daughter with her ex-husband who on her day imposed justice. The man was sentenced to 21 months in prison for a crime of habitual abuse, but he never entered prison because the sentence was less than two years and he had no record. On the contrary, it is she who, 21 years after separating, after all this time immersed in a legal battle that, she says, has left her almost without strength, faces her own imprisonment after the Council of Ministers has rejected the request for pardon.

The woman moved this Wednesday from Seville to Madrid supported by the feminist movement and with a clear message: ask the Government to rectify and grant her a measure of grace because, she says, "the only thing I have done is protect my daughter" against to vicarious violence, something that "the institutions did not do". The viacrucis that she has gone through is a complex process marked by multiple complaints that her ex-husband has been filing against her for two decades. The result is four sentences for the same crime: failing to comply with the visits with the parent convicted of gender violence; and one more for non-payment of pensions.

Salmerón's is not an isolated case and is linked with many other similar of judicial processes that end up turning against women. In some, these mothers are accused of the false Parental Alienation Syndrome after denouncing sexual abuse or violence towards their children by the parents and they end up being taken away from them under the premise that they have been manipulated. In others, it is the non-compliance with the visits to which the boys and girls are forced that end up penalizing them. It is the pattern followed by the thirty cases for which the UN has drawn attention recently to Spain and the 400 documented by the association Madres Protectoras.

"They are blamed for not bending the will of their children and not forcing them to go to the aggressor. This is in a context in which more and more legislation is moving towards the protection of minors in cases of sexist violence," explains Marisa Soleto , president of the Fundación Mujeres, who has demanded a "solution" for these situations in which "the spirit of the entire legislative framework against gender-based violence in force in Spain ends up being violated".

If Salmerón is not in jail today, it is because he has been able to evade it by granting a suspended sentence and three pardons granted in 2012 and 2016 by the then Government of the Popular Party. The last one was overturned by the Supreme Court. However, the woman has returned to the beginning with the last sentence, from 2020, in which the Criminal Court No. 6 of Seville imposed a sentence of nine months in prison for a continued crime of serious disobedience to authority with the aggravating recidivism. What happened to get here?

The woman separated from her ex-husband in 2001, when her daughter Miriam was just a few months old. The court granted her custody of her and him a visitation regimen of two hours two days a week, alternate weekends and split vacations. In 2003, Salmerón denounced him for sexist violence and obtained a protection order. It is then decided that the visits will take place at a Family Meeting Point (PEF) and on March 28, 2008 the Provincial Court of Seville condemns the man for a crime of habitual abuse, a ruling confirmed by the Supreme Court one year later.

According to the proven facts of the sentence, the violence began from the beginning of the relationship, marked by "the dominant and jealous attitude of the defendant" that "increased" after the wedding. Since then he "took advantage of any occasion to humiliate her not only in private but also in public". María stopped interacting with her co-workers and friends and changed the way she dressed, says the ruling, which describes different situations of violence, humiliation and insults between 1999 and 2001.

Before the justice condemned her ex-husband, María Salmerón had already been required on several occasions for breach of the visitation regime since 2006, at a time when her daughter was already six years old. "She did not want to go with him, she knew he was a violent person, but they forced him and it was constant suffering," says the woman, who even had to face seeing how justice granted her ex-husband custody for almost two years. even when the man had already been convicted of sexist violence. Later, in mid-2011, Salmerón regained custody of her and her daughter returned to live with her.

"During all these processes, the girl says that she practically had no relationship with her father even when they were living together and that when the visits were made, he did not even go to pick her up. Miriam's refusal to relate to him is recorded," explains Ángela Alemany, member of Mujeres Juristas Themis and Salmerón's lawyer in one of the processes. The expert emphasizes that today what is happening to Salmerón would be unlikely as a result of the recent legislative reforms that generalize the suspension of visits to parents investigated for sexist violence.

Miriam, who is now 21 years old and has no relationship with her father, continues to claim that her mother's intention was to try to protect her. "My father's only mission is to destroy my mother and with her he takes me ahead," she told him a few days ago to The country. The convictions came in 2008, 2009 and 2010, to which the last of 2020 was added. But, as he argued in his exposition before the Ombudsman, there were also complaints from her ex-husband that did not prosper. It was the case of a process that ended up filing the Provincial Court of Seville in 2017, in which the dismissal literally ensures that there was a "rejection of the girl towards her father and a resolute decision not to be with him", a situation "incompatible with the presence of the necessary fraud on the part of the defendant María Salmerón so that the perpetration of a crime of disobedience can be attributed to her.

For Alemany, this is one of the key procedures that demonstrates that the judicial mess in which the woman is immersed supposes "a blindness" of justice "towards sexist violence" but that, in addition, in this case she has incurred in contradictory pronouncements. "The same behavior cannot be a crime in one room and not in another. It is something that causes legal insecurity," says the lawyer.

The 2020 sentence for which the Government has not granted Salmerón a pardon was caused by events that occurred between 2012 and 2014, a date on which Miriam "should already, due to her age, have been heard in court," the woman claims. Only a couple of years later, in 2016, the court decided to order the immediate cessation of visits "according to the age of the minor, with remarkable judgment and degree of maturity." Thus, the order provided that the young woman, then 15 years old, should not be forced to do so and, "to put it in clear language," the letter says, "she will see the father when, where and how she wants, if she wants." To this day, Miriam has no relationship with her father.

Salmerón's case came to the table of the Council of Ministers last Tuesday, April 27, but the Government rejected his last request for pardon – "due to legal imperative", justified the Executive – as "he is a repeat offender and having been informed pardon negatively by the sentencing court" and the Prosecutor's Office. The law allows granting a measure of grace to repeat offenders as long as the court or the Council of State see "sufficient reasons of justice, equity or public convenience", a circumstance that has not occurred in this case, sources from the Ministry of Justice told EFE .

Salmerón, who has requested the Government the file of his pardon "without success", has also not satisfied civil liability, that is, the payment of 3,000 euros in compensation, which imposed the last sentence, also assured the same sources. At the request of the woman's ex-husband and the Association of Victims of the Gender Violence Law (Avilegen), the Supreme Court had revoked the third pardon, granted by the then Minister of Justice Rafael Catalá, considering that the Executive had not motivated Reasons enough. However, the decision to deny him this fourth pardon divides the Government, since the Ministry of Equality has been favorable and considers it "necessary".

There are several organizations that have spoken along the same lines and that see the echoes of many others in the case. The Association of Women Judges of Spain (AMJE) has called for a "more flexible" application of the pardon law and ensures that Spain "is ignoring international treaties" that require the application of the gender and childhood perspective. "Once again, we find a woman who, in addition to having been a victim of sexist violence, is now a victim of institutional violence caused by a legal and judicial system that does not integrate" this approach.

Soleto, from the Women's Foundation, understands "the legal difficulty and the reasons" that have led to the denial of pardon, but asks for a "general and urgent" solution for her case and that of other women "who only want to protect their children and daughters" but find that they end up being punished, which puts them between a rock and a hard place. "If you deliver your daughter to the father badly, if you don't deliver her, worse," Salmerón said before Congress on Wednesday.

"If I hadn't done what I did, we don't know what we would be talking about now. Maybe my daughter wouldn't be there," she added, recalling cases like the one in Angela Gonzalez, whose ex-husband killed her daughter on a visit after filing fifty complaints. The UN condemned Spain for not protecting it and demanded that it take measures so that it would not happen again. Four years later, in 2018, the two daughters of Itziar Prats were murdered by her father, a case for which the State assumed "a global and transversal failure" for not protecting them.

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