Sexual assault

Pamplona gang rape victim: “Don’t leave me alone, please”

Prosecutors make impassioned call for accused to be jailed for 22 years over alleged sexual assault in 2016

Manuel Jabois
Two of the men accused of raping an 18-year-old in Pamplona in 2016.
Two of the men accused of raping an 18-year-old in Pamplona in 2016.Julian Rojas (EL PAÍS)

An 18-year-old woman who has never had group sex before – who has never performed the sort of sexual practices described in the prosecutor's report – decides to quickly find a place where she can have an orgy with a group of men she met in the street seven minutes ago, and about whom she knows nothing: not even their names or even how many of them there are. She then has sexual relations with all five of them, saying next to nothing at all, and all of this without the use of a condom.

On the morning after the alleged rape, the woman grabbed a female police officer by the arm and said: “Don’t leave me alone, please”

This is the version of events of the defense lawyers for the accused, public prosecutor Elena Sarasate explained in a packed court on Monday as she presented her office’s report during the final phase of a trial into the alleged rape of a young woman by five men during the Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona in 2016 – a case that has attracted widespread attention in Spain and beyond.

Sarasate spoke slowly as she explained that the five defendants – all in their 20s, one of whom is a civil guard and another a member of the military – had admitted to previously having had unprotected group sex and filming the act. “In other words, they knew exactly what they were doing.”

That is why, on that night in July 2016, when the young woman was taken to a doorway of a building in Pamplona, she found that she was surrounded, the prosecutor continued.

Public prosecutors call for lengthy jail terms

Public prosecutors have called for the five men accused of raping an 18-year-old during the 2016 Running of the Bulls in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona to spend 22 years and 10 months behind bars.

The prosecutor has also called for the young woman to be paid €100,000 in damages for the alleged attack, which was filmed by the defendants.

During the trial, the young woman admitted that the five defendants did not use force to take her into the doorway where they then allegedly raped her. Instead, two of them took her by the hand.

It is this detail that prosecutors believe lends credibility to her story. “She could have invented threats and didn’t do so,” the office said in its report.

Prosecutors also noted the woman did not know the five men accused of rape before the alleged attack and there were no “spurious” reasons for her to report them to the police. But the office noted the declarations of the accused in court contained “serious contradictions” and that the men “knew what was going on and knew it well,” adding that the men had admitted in court to having taken part in unprotected group sex before, and to having filmed those acts.

The prosecutors’ office said the attitude of the victim was “passive” during the rape. The five defendants “restrained her, not with force, but they restrained her” and that one of the men “opened her mouth with his fingers and put his penis inside.”

Crimes related to sexual aggression, privacy offenses and the robbery of a cellphone had all been clearly demonstrated, said the office. “Why would they have stolen her phone if the sex was consensual?” the prosecutor asked. “The logical thing would have been to swap numbers, not steal the phone.”

In a state of shock, the young woman closed her eyes and submitted to what was happening, hoping it would be over as soon as possible. “Not even in her worst nightmares could she have imagined something like this,” Sarasate said of the case, which has been become known as La Manada (The Pack) in Spain due to the name of the WhatsApp group used by the defendants.

The events of the attack were carried out “using violence and intimidation” and “the evidence is completely convincing,” said the prosecutor on Monday. What didn’t take place was any form of consent, she noted, referring to video footage of the incident taken by two of the defendants which shows the young woman surrounded by the five men with their trousers pulled down.

“Does anyone think that in that moment if she says ‘I don’t want to do this’ or ‘I don’t like this’ they would let her just walk away?” the prosecutor asked rhetorically.

The account offered by Sarasate attempted to demonstrate that the 96 seconds of video footage of the alleged rape of the young woman – key evidence in the trial – shows someone in a state of panic who is moaning with pain rather than pleasure.

The prosecutor also attacked the version of events given by the defendants with a series of questions. If the woman had, as they argued, said she could have sex “with two or with five,” why had she originally told police, while still in shock, that there had been four men? And if the accused men said they had all been together talking about having sex, why did the images show a spread-out group with the young woman only walking with one of the men? Why did she say she had kissed one of the men before the alleged rape if this could damage her credibility later?

The prosecutor also asked why the woman, after meeting the men, had called a friend to try and meet up if the intention of the six people was to have sex.

Crucially, Sarasate also questioned why the young woman appeared in the video footage of the alleged rape with her eyes closed, not saying a word and not moving despite the assertion of the accused that she had participated in the sexual acts that took place.

Why would a group of men who had had consensual sex with a woman leave her half naked while one of the defendants, the civil guard, stole her cellphone only to throw away the SIM card and the case after leaving the scene?

The prosecutor also expressed outrage at the defense team’s argument that it could not have been rape as the woman did not try and defend herself by “biting their penises.”

“The account of the victim is objectively believable,” said Sarasate, noting the young woman’s testimony had been consistent and adding: “The victim is not exaggerating”

They knew exactly what they were doing Public prosecutor Elena Sarasate

The prosecutor also drew attention to police and psychologist reports that noted the woman had been found crying with “such bitterness” and was so “disconsolate” that she caught the attention of a couple on a night during a festival where nearly everything goes and where almost nothing catches anyone’s attention.

The prosecutor explained that the young woman didn’t hesitate when the couple said she should call the police and she later struggled to explain to officers what had happened. A year-and-a-half later she is still in treatment. On that morning in July 2016, she grabbed one of the female police officers by the arm and said: “Don’t leave me alone, please.”

English version by George Mills.

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