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.
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”
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.