Spanish prosecutors are investigating the circumstances surrounding the suicide of a woman after a sexually explicit video of her began circulating among her work colleagues.
The 32-year-old woman, V., had two young children and was an employee at the Madrid plant of Iveco, an industrial vehicle manufacturer. The police are trying to determine who sent out the video first and who else shared it on social media.
Esperanza Torrico, suicide expert
V. killed herself on Saturday, days after the video began circulating through private messaging and WhatsApp groups. Two colleagues told the private TV network Antena 3 that the woman said she had made that video years earlier, before getting married, and that she was afraid her husband would see it. This apparently happened on Friday.
More than 100 Iveco employees gathered at the factory entrance on Tuesday and Wednesday to express their grief. “I think that people are not aware that things that may seem like a joke to them can ultimately trigger something like this,” said one worker in statements to the EFE news agency.
“We are far from aware of the power of social media, which are as accessible as they are dangerous when used the wrong way,” said Andoni Anseán, president of the Spanish Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “We still don’t fully assess the individual repercussion of these collective actions, which often are also illegal.”
Company managers were informed of the situation on Thursday of last week, but they decided it was a personal matter, not a workplace one, and took no action, according to the labor union Comisiones Obreras (CC OO). Some news outlets have reported that the human resources department urged the woman to file a police complaint alleging a violation of privacy, but she refused. The company has made no statements on the subject.
Raquel Márquez, a CC OO lawyer who has taken charge of the case, said the union will take the matter up with work inspectors because it believes the suicide should be viewed as a workplace accident and thus entail legal and criminal accountability.
In this case, neither the individual who first sent out the video nor the people who redistributed it can be accused of “sexting” (disseminating private images and videos without the person’s consent) because the victim did not file a formal complaint.
Instead, says digital law expert Borja Adsuara, “it could be investigated as crimes against moral integrity – both the first time it was sent out, presumably by her ex-partner, and the following times that it was redistributed by her work colleagues.” Adsuara said there might also be grounds for investigating whether there was sexual extortion against the victim.
This expert says that it is important “for society to understand what sexting is, and to know that the criminal code sets out three months to one year in prison, or a fine of six to 12 months, for disseminating private images without prior consent from the affected party.” This has been the case since a 2015 reform to the criminal code; before that, sending out a private video had only been viewed as a crime if the images themselves were taken without consent.
Adsuara also notes that the case could well fall within the bounds of sexist violence: “Our society is heir to a Judeo-Christian culture in which women’s sexuality is not viewed favorably.”
Esperanza Torrico, a psychology professor at Huelva University and expert on suicide, says it is essential for society to do some soul-searching and avoid seeking explanations that will “re-victimize the victim. It is not so much the victim as society that has a problem. A society that offers no support, but only voyeurism,” she said.
English version by Susana Urra.