Sexual abuse

Town closes ranks around soccer players accused of sexually assaulting teen

A 15-year-old girl in Aranda has become the target of rumors and gossip after the incident

People wait outside the home of the accused soccer players on December 13.
People wait outside the home of the accused soccer players on December 13.Kike Para

It’s Thursday, December 14 and less than 24 hours have passed since three soccer players from the Arandina team in Aranda de Duero were sentenced to pre-trial detention without bail for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old. A television crew has set up outside the home of the accused players, Carlos Cuadrado Santos (24), Víctor Rodríguez (22) and Raúl Calvo (19). It is a town divided between those who defend the soccer players and those who want to protect the teenage girl. A neighbor walks by the crew: “She was no saint,” she says without warning, adding that the teenager boasted of sleeping with the three Arandina players.

I wonder whether an underage victim can continue living in such a small city where everyone knows who they are ANAR foundation director Benjamín Ballesteros

The incident, which took place last week, is just one example of the types of comments that can be heard in the bars and streets of Aranda. It’s a city of 33,000 people which continues to have a small-town mentality. Here information spreads from one person to another at lightning speed and everyone is just the messenger. “The mother must have given it serious thought before it making the complaint,” says a man seated at the bar.

“She has fucked up the life of these guys and she has fucked up her own life,” adds another client. “The problem is that she’s underage,” is another frequent comment.

Benjamín Ballesteros, director of the ANAR foundation which helps children and teenagers, and which the parents of the young victim turned to in order to denounce the assault, says that it is very unfortunate that details of the case went public. “If it had not happened this way, the details would have undoubtedly only been known by the perpetrators and people close to the case. But no one else.”

ANAR registers at least 800 cases of sexual abuse a year and its mission in these situations is to support and provide resources for victims and people close to them. To achieve this, it provides help lines with psychologists – one for adults, another for minors – and from November, it also has also offered a chat messaging service for even greater anonymity. The foundation makes it clear that it cannot make any comment about the calls it receives because its services are anonymous and confidential.

Idols are accepted and never judged. Soccer players are idols beyond reproach, an example for children to follow CSIC anthropologist Manuel Mandianes

“In the case of minors and sexual abuse there is still a lot of machismo, and we have to realize that a woman has every right to say no,” says Ballesteros. “With a case that has received so much media attention, I wonder whether an underage victim can continue living in such a small city where everyone knows who they are. I imagine it must be a terrible shock.”

Little by little, Aranda had begun to leave the media spotlight until last Saturday, when 200 people protested in the city’s Plaza de la Constitución square to defend the players’ presumption of innocence. The protest, organized on social media, called for justice and attacked “the twisting of facts by the media.”

A few isolated voices came out to defend the victim. “Towns have a lot of tolerance for their idols. Idols are accepted and never judged. Soccer players are idols beyond reproach, an example for children to follow,” says Manuel Mandianes, anthropologist of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and author of Football is not like this. Although the Arandina players do not enjoy that level of fame, Mandianes draws parallels with other soccer players under investigation – for tax fraud in the case of Lionel Messi or for assaulting his partner in the case of Real Betis striker Rubén Castro – who have been backed by their fans. “Within their world they are famous. You can make the comparison on a micro level,” says the expert.

The soccer team Arandina F.C., which plays in the Third Division, acted quickly to kick out the players as soon as the judge gave them pre-trial detention without bail. The team also called for an event against gender violence to be held this Saturday, just before it plays against Numancia B. On Sunday, they played their first match without the players, winning 1-2 against Burgo Promesas.

The soccer players have confessed they were with the girl but have denied there was any abuse

On Wednesday, the mother of the alleged victim appeared before a judge to confirm her daughter’s version of events. She said that her daughter told her that she was forced to perform sexual acts with the players. The teenage girl had been seeing a psychologist and it was in the last session that she revealed what had happened. The victim explained she became friends with one of the players on social media. On November 23, she went to his home which he shared with the two other players. According to her statement, when she got there it was just her and the man she befriended online, but then his roommates arrived.

At this moment, according to the statement, the men undressed and grabbed her hands and the back of her neck to force her to perform sexual acts with them, which the minor tried to resist. In her declaration, reported by EFE, the victim says she froze in fear and was forced to have intercourse with one of the men.

This week, friends of the victim are also set to appear before the judge, according to official sources. The victim made a recording which sources say confirm her version of the events. The soccer players have confessed they were with the girl but have denied there was any abuse. They maintain that there is no video evidence, despite rumors that this is the case.

This latest case of sexual abuse comes as Spain continues to reel from the alleged gang rape of an 18-year-old woman during the 2016 Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. A verdict on the case, known as La Manada – or “The Pack,” after the name of the men’s WhatsApp chat group, is still pending.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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