Man arrested in Barcelona after partner makes domestic abuse signal to healthcare worker

The member of staff called the authorities when the victim used the gesture to call for help. The suspect was detained after the pair had been interviewed separately

A file photo of a feminist march in Barcelona.
A file photo of a feminist march in Barcelona.MASSIMILIANO MINOCRI

Police officers in the Catalonia region have arrested a man on suspicion of domestic abuse after his partner made the international signal for sexist violence – showing the palm of your hand, tucking in your thumb and closing your fingers – at a healthcare center.

The incident took place on November 11 at a private clinic in the Barcelona district of Sarrià-Sant Gervasi. The couple in question were in the waiting room when the woman made the gesture to one of the staff members.

The healthcare worker called the emergency services and two officers from the regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, arrived on the scene and interviewed the couple separately. The woman confirmed to officers that, for some time, she had been subject to “insults, disrespect and violent attitudes such as pushing.” After taking his statement, the officers arrested the man on suspicion of mistreatment in the home.

On Monday, the Mossos d’Esquadra published a tweet explaining how the use of the symbol – which has been promoted by organizations such as the Canadian Women’s Foundation and the Women’s Funding Network in the United States – can help victims of domestic abuse. Similar tweets (such as the one below) have been published by other law-enforcement agencies.

This signal, designed to be used without the abuser noticing, has gone viral on social networks, in particular TikTok. Several weeks ago, a teenager who had been kidnapped in North Carolina was located after a motorcyclist realized that the youngster had made the symbol while she was a passenger in a car being driven by her kidnapper.

Meanwhile, Barcelona City Hall has put a campaign in place aimed at detecting and preventing domestic abuse, as well as attending to victims who have not reported their situation or who are subject to practices and behavior that is not punishable under Spanish law.

The team led by Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau has called the program Te acompañamos (or, We are with you), which involves a protocol for local police officers and a guide with a series of indications for the detection of possible domestic abuse victims.

“Seven domestic violence reports”

City Hall pointed out that 84% of such victims murdered in Spain at the hands of their partners and ex-partners had not reported their abuser. The councilor in charge of social and feminist rights, Laura Pérez, said that the new protocol would improve the prevention and detection of such situations, improving the efficiency of the response and attention to the victims and improving municipal coordination with the Mossos.

“This weekend there were seven reports of domestic violence,” explained local police chief Sergi Amposta earlier this week. “Of these seven, four were clear-cut cases and ended up with the arrest of the assailant. For the other three, when officers arrived the man had left and the woman did not want to file a complaint.” Amposta added that the new protocol will help to establish the facts in this kind of situation.

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